We’ve eaten tons of suman in our lifetime. Suman from gelatinous rice. Suman from cassava and other root crops. Budbud kabog. Suman pinipig. Green, yellow, while and all shades of color. Sweet, very sweet, bland, and all shades of taste. Suman can be ordinary, but it can also be gourmet.
This morning is different — we had our first taste of Suman sa Lihiya. This type of suman comes bundled in twos, bundled together with a white tie. It’s still wrapped in banana leaf. This gave us a thought — a suman is not a suman if not wrapped in banana leaf. Then we remember that some types of suman are wrapped in coconut leaves. We’re sure there are other variations (we’re also sure somebody knows that and would tell us through the comment section below).
We asked why it’s called Suman sa Lihiya. Is it the place of origin? Is it from a name of an ingredient? The only answer we got was that lihiya refers to some lye (by way of update, we encountered KitcheNette who confirmed that lihiya refers to lye, and that suman lihiya is also called Suman Bulagta, consumed with latik or toasted coconut flakes and a drizzling of sugar on top. One “bulagta” really packs a punch, she said, “kaya nabubulagta ka sa sarap“). Exactly what “lye” means, somebody please tell us. We’ve heard that Suman sa Lihiya originated from Nueva Ecija.
What’s distinctive about Suman sa Lihiya, in our opinion, is the different consistency of the gelatinous or sticky rice (English Patis talks about the recipe; ingredients and and how to cook it). While it’s soft and sticky, just like any suman should be, there’s a hint of crispiness with each grain of rice. The closest we could imagine is fried suman (when suman is about to get spoiled, we usually fry it and eat it; no waste).
Anyway, Suman sa Lihiya is bland. Not sweet compared to other suman or kakanin. This is bland because it’s supposed to be eaten with something on the side. That morning the side ingredients were grated coconut sprinkled over the suman, with plain white sugar to boot. Tastes great.