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Suman Sa Lihiya - Filipino Steamed Sweet Sticky Rice Cakes

Picture of Suman Sa Lihiya - Filipino Steamed Sweet Sticky Rice Cakes
Suman Sa Lihiya is a Filipino sweet sticky rice cake steamed in a banana leaf.
It has wonderful chewy, gooey, sticky texture which comes from treating the rice in lihiya, or lye water.

Unfortunately, lye water is not easy to find in the U.S. Although it is not dangerous at this concentration, some people don't like the idea of ingesting a substance which shares the same active ingredient as Drano.

You have probably consumed lye before: it's used to make olives, pretzels, and various Asian noodles, such as ramen and lo mein.

If you don't have, or don't want to use lye, don't worry! You can still make this recipe work. 

According to this article, it turns out that baked baking soda will work as a substitute.
Baking the baking soda turns it into sodium carbonate, a stronger alkali, which makes it suitable to use in place of lye water.

I tried it, and it worked perfectly!

This recipe is non-traditional. It is more of a combonation of Suman Sa Lihiya and Suman Sa Gata (Coconut Milk Sticky Rice Cake)
You get the best of both worlds : the chewiness of the treated rice combined with the flavor of coconut milk.

Feeling hungry? Let's make some suman!
 
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Step 1: Gather Ingredients and Equipment

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Ingredients:  (Makes about 25 suman)

- 4 cups glutinous rice ( also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, can be found in Asian groceries or in the Asian aisle )

- 1 can of coconut milk (use coconut cream if you want it creamier)

- 3 to 4 cups of water

- 1 tablespoon lihiya/lye water/kansui /alkaline water (can be found in Asian markets)
    If you have this, you can skip steps 3 and 5. 
    If you do not have it, or do not want to use it, then use 1/4 cup of baking soda
and follow steps 3 and 5.
                              
- 2 thawed packages frozen banana leaves
(these can be found in the frozen section of any Asian, Hispanic, or large multicultural grocery) or or 4 large fresh banana leaves.
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Equipment:

- Cotton string ( only if there are no extra leaves left from Step 10)

- A purpose built steamer or a makeshift one

- A pot/bowl to soak the rice

- A pot large enough to cook 4 cups of rice
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Have everything? Let's make some Suman!




Step 2: Soak Rice

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In a medium to large sized bowl, soak the rice in just enough water to cover it.

For convenience, you can soak the rice in the same pot that you will cook it in later.

Cover with plastic wrap or lid, and soak overnight.

Step 3: Bake the Baking Soda

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Spread 1/4 cup of baking soda on a foil lined baking sheet.

Bake in an oven at 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour.

When it is done baking, let cool. Transfer baked soda to an airtight, non-metallic container.

You can use it to make Asian alkaline noodles (such as ramen) and other kinds of rice cakes.

Avoid breathing this in or getting it in your mouth, eyes, or skin. It isn't dangerous, but it may be irritating.

Step 4: Make the "Lye Water" Solution

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Do this only after the rice is almost done soaking.

Mix 2 teaspoons baked baking soda in 2 tablespoons of hot water.

Mix until fully dissolved and the water is clear and no longer cloudy.

Save the rest of the baked soda in an airtight container.

You can use it as a substitute for alkali salts to make Asian alkali noodles (such as ramen and Hokkien mee) and other kinds of rice cakes.

Immediately move on to Step 6.

Step 5: Drain and Soak Again

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Drain as much water as you can from the rice without it spilling into the sink.

Add 2  1/2  to 3 cups of fresh water to the rice.

Add 1 tablespoon of lye water or lye water substitute you made in Step 5, and stir to evenly distribute.

The rice and water may take on a yellowish tinge.

Soak for half an hour.

Step 6: Cook

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Transfer rice to pot if it is not already in one.

On a stove, with the burner on medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil, constantly stirring the rice so that it does not burn or stick to the pot.

Once it comes to a boil, turn bring it down to medium heat. Continue to stir the rice to keep it from sticking.

If the rice does end up sticking, use a spatula to scrape up the stuck stuff as you are cooking. Mix it in with the rest of the rice.

Do this for about 2 to 3 minutes, then move on to Step 8.

Step 7: Add Coconut Milk

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After cooking the rice for about 3 minutes, add one can of coconut milk or coconut cream to the rice.

Continue stirring on medium heat.

It will start to smell very good at this point.

Step 8: Add Sugar

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After mixing the coconut milk or cream in thoroughly, add 1 to 3 (or more) tablespoons of sugar to the rice, depending on how sweet you want it.

Do not add more than 5 tablespoons of sugar! The sugar we are adding now is only to give the plain rice cake a light sweetness, as later you can drizzle a syrup on the finished cake or sprinkle sugar on it.

Mix the sugar thoroughly throughout the rice.

Cook the rice until it is half cooked. (It should have the texture of undercooked rice or rice not cooked with enough water)

Step 9: Cool it Down

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Turn off the heat and cover the pot to the rice steam itself.

After 5 minutes, uncover the pot, and let the rice cool down to a workable temperature as you work on Steps 11 and 12.

Step 10: Cut and Wash Leaves

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Open both packages of thawed banana leaves.

Using your outstretched thumb and forefinger( about 16 to 18 cm or 6 1/3 to 7 inches), measure the leaves into roughly equal widths and cut in the same direction as the veins.

Make about 20 to 25 0f these.

Avoid using cuts that have multiple tears, but save them.

Save any unused leaves in case you need to make more.

Wash the leaves well in warm water to remove dirt and dust.

Step 11: Cut Out Ties

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Using leaves that are ripped, or extra leaves, make strips of leaf by simple cutting or tearing down the leaf.

Ideally, these should be about a half centimeter thick. If  they are to thin, they will snap when tying. If they are 1 centimeter or wider, they will be to hard to tie tightly.

Set aside.

You're almost done! Let's start wrapping!

Step 12: Wrap It!

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This is easier than wrapping a present.

Wipe down the banana leaf, and scoop 1/4 cup of the partially cooked rice onto it.

Using wet fingers so the rice doesn't stick them, make the rice into a little log in the center of the leaf in the same direction as the veins. Do not make it too thick or too thin. Leave room on the ends of the leaf, as you will be folding them over later.

Tightly fold along the veins, following the other pictures:

- Tightly fold over the sides parallel to the log
- Tightly fold over the ends.

Repeat this with the other leaves and the rest of the rice.

If a leaf has a minor tear, place an undamaged leaf under the rice log to patch it up.

Step 13: Tie Them Up

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Pair up suman of similar length and tie them together on both ends,their folded ends facing each other.

Tie them with your banana leaf strips using a double knot. If using cotton string, use an easy to remove knot, such as a shoelace knot.

Make sure that they are tightly tied and "snuggled" together.

Cut excess string or leaf from the ties.

Repeat with the rest of the suman.

Step 14: Steam

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In a wok, pot, or steamer pot, bring water to a low to medium boil.

Place If using a pot or wok, place steamer on top.

Fit as many suman pairs as you can into the steamer. (You can even stack them.)

Steam for half an hour.  Make sure that you check the water level now and then, adding boiling water as needed.

If your steamer is small, it may be helpful to have several steamers going at the same time.

Step 15: Eat It!

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After half an hour, remove suman from steamer and let allow them to cool down enough so you can hold them.

Remove ties and separate the pairs into individual pieces.

There are two ways to eat this:

1) Unfold one of the ends, then peel the leaf down as you wold peel a banana. Eat plain,or dip in sugar and / or freshly grated coconut.

2) Completely unwrap the suman so that it is sitting on the leaf. Eat plain or add any toppings you want. (Use a spoon or fork!)

Common toppings used for suman are fresh grated mature coconut, sugar, latik, coconut syrup, palm sugar syrup etc.
Any kind of simple syrup can be used, although I'm not quite sure if maple syrup would work.

Suman also goes very well with mangoes and bananas.

If any of you make this, let me know how it turns out!

Enjoy!



AidanG2 years ago
Why do you bake the baking soda?

It increases the alkalinity of it

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/dining/15curious.html

Bajaku1 year ago

What a lovely instructable! It is exactly what I was looking for. And I'd never heard of using baked baking soda. I'm going to make this one of these days, and then I'll get back here to report. Thanks a bunch.