There are many ways of preparing rice wine, and many taboos
to be observed, but recipes and taboos vary from region to region. A
generally applicable recipe is given here below, the way the
the Penampang area make their famous lihing.
Ingredients & Method
1 gantang (3.5 kg) pulut (glutinous
rice) cooked ‘al dente’, with just enough water. It is important
that the rice is not overcooked, as this would spoil the taste of
Once cooked the rice is spread on a
mat, or on a tray called ‘kohintung’, and allowed to cool for
a couple of hours
When the rice is not too hot any
more (you can touch it without burning your fingers), the yeast,
pounded and ground to a fine powder, is added. The whole is
thoroughly mixed and transferred to a jar (a plastic bucket with a
fitting lid will do the trick, too)
Traditionally the jars are washed, and scrubbed inside
with guava leaves. Before rice enters they are thoroughly sun-dried. The
jar is sealed with banana leaves, or tarap leaves (or, nowadays,
with plastic bags and a rubber band).
Many taboos have to be observed during the making of rice wine. Thus one
is not allowed to swear or fight during the cooking process, or to talk
bad and loudly. Other taboos are connected to practical hygiene, such as
the rule that one cannot touch lemons or any other sour thing during the
preparations. This could turn the wine sour. Hygiene is paramount, and in
olden days often the whole family was banned from the house when mother
prepared rice wine.
Often a piece of charcoal, or a small knife called
pa’is is placed on top of the jar with the fermenting rice, to prevent
bad spirits from entering the recipient and spoil the wine – lihing, being
an entirely natural wine, will turn into vinegar when left exposed to air.
After two weeks, one can insert a straw into the rice,
and add a little water to the slightly fermented mash. The thus served
lihing is called sosopon, or siopon. If left to ferment for
one month, one can drain (manganaas) the wine and drink it from
traditional bamboo cup called suki. The Kadazan make a rice wine
filter from bamboo (tataas), which is inserted into the jar and he
wine is scooped out from the bamboo.
Storage & Aging
The wine ages very well in its jar (or bottle) and the
best one can keep for several years. It will go through a sherry process
and turn first an amber gold, then black. Some people burry their jars,
and at very special occasions open the wine, which by then can reach
around 22% vol., the highest degree of alcohol one can achieve by natural
The mash of the rice (hampas), after fermentation
and drainage of the wine, is often distilled to extract rice alcohol (talak
The Flying Dusun Sdn Bhd is the producer of the exclusive
Headhunter's Lihing, which is packaged in an attractive
souvenir bottle and sold in a few select souvenir boutiques in Sabah, such
Borneo Trading Post.
Our rice wine is fermented for up to two months, then
carefully drained. We use natural filtration and let sediments settle
prior to bottling, but initially your rice wine might still be cloudy, or
have a white deposit at the bottom of the bottle. If you keep it longer it
will go through a natural sherry process and turn first an amber gold, and
For best drinking pleasure we generally suggest to enjoy
the lihing within a year from bottling.
With its slightly sweetish, sherry like taste Lihing
makes an excellent aperitif, chilled or at room temperature.
Lihing is also excellent in
drinks and mixes very well with neutral
alcohols such as white rum or vodka. Topped up with fruit juices and ice
lihing makes for a ‘tribal’ long drink!
And lihing is very suitable for
cooking. Traditionally local as well as
Chinese women in confinement would eat chicken soup with ginger and
fortified with rice wine for one month to strengthen the body after their
pregnancy and birth. This soup is, however, not only for women in
confinement; it is an excellent tonic for a tired body and to chase away
the flu! But one can also cook other meats and even fish with rice wine,
using it just like any other white wine in traditional cuisine, and in our
recipe selection you will find some inspiration.
The Flying Dusun Sdn Bhd also produces lihing for the
local Sabah market.