Palitaw (sweet rice dumplings with
sesame sugar and coconut)


Recently my friend Justine posted a link to a Korean dessert called gyung-dan, which are basically little chewy cakes of rice flour, sometimes filled with sweet bean paste, and rolled in sesame seeds. Right away this made me think of palitaw, one of my favorite Filipino kakanin, or desserts. Palitaw is boiled sweet rice flour (no filling) that is then coated in sugar, toasted sesame seeds and, in the usual Filipino tropical twist, grated coconut.

This is the easiest dessert ever to make if you have the ingredients on hand. You will need sweet rice flour, such as Mochiko. Some (like my mother, of course) would argue that to make proper palitaw you really should soak sweet rice, then make it into a paste. Frankly, I will admit that with this step, I probably would never make palitaw myself, so I’ll stick to the Mochiko. She did convince me, however, of the worthwhile step of grinding the toasted sesame seeds with the sugar to “get the most sesame flavor from it”. She is right about that.

For the grated coconut, ideally you would have fresh grated coconut extracted with one of these dangerous bad boys (The way it works is you sit on the grater on a low stool, and hold the coconut and grate it with the sharp metal bit. Why do I call it dangerous? My auntie, as a child, ran into one of these, resulting in a huge bloody gash. I guess the moral of the story is don’t run in the house when there are coconut graters lying around.)

If you don’t have access to fresh coconut, check the freezer at the Asian grocery, or use desiccated (non-sweetened) coconut as I have here.

Finally, make sure to eat the palitaw right away. There’s basically no point if it isn’t piping hot; after that it gets insanely chewy and soggy. But when it’s fresh, it’s a little piece of tropical heaven.

serves 4

2 cups (300g) sweet rice flour (such as Mochiko)
3/4 cup (180ml) water
1 cup (90g) grated coconut
1/2 cup(100g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

  1. Stir the flour and water in a bowl until smooth. Form the dough into 1-inch balls and flatten slightly into patties.
  2. In a food processor, combine the sesame seeds and sugar. Set aside in a shallow dish (you will roll the patties in them after they’ve been cooked. Set the grated coconut in a separate shallow dish (also for coating the patties later).
  3. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Drop the palitaw into the boiling water. Cook until they float to the surface.
  4. Roll them right away in the sugar-sesame mixture, then in the grated coconut. Serve immediately.