I may not be that big on sweets but Palitaw is one I can never resist. A popular Filipino snack, Palitaw is made from sticky rice flour and coconut. Palitaw means “to float”, and you’ll see why when you make a batch. This is one dish that’s almost as much fun to make as it is to eat. If you have kids around, they love to help! With few ingredients and easy steps, plus a quick turnaround from preparation to consumption, Palitaw will have even your youngest cooks engaged in the kitchen.
Palitaw are sold by street vendors all over the Philippines. Light in sugar and coated with healthy coconut, this is as comfortable as a breakfast, as it is served for dessert. Moreover, they are ready in just 20 minutes, making this a great dish to whip up at the last minute.
Sweet Rice Flour
If you’ve ever had mochi ice cream, you’ve had sweet rice flour. That’s what makes the fun, chewy layer wrapped around the ice cream. The flour is made from glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice, and is used in all sorts of desserts and snacks. It’s a gluten free flour, making this a perfect choice for anyone avoiding gluten.
When purchasing rice flour, make sure you are purchasing the right kind. Regular rice flour, sold at many health food stores as a gluten free alternative for wheat flour, is not the same. On the package it should say glutinous rice or sticky rice, and if there is a description of the product, it should talk about the incredibly starchy quality of the flour. Alternatively, you should be able to find sweet rice flour easily at an Asian Market, which may also call it Mochi flour.
I start by toasting unsweetened coconut flakes. I use the oven set at a low temperature because the flakes can burn really easily. The smell while it toasts is heavenly! I admit that I like my coconut very toasty. Usually, I take the coconut a bit darker to really bring out the caramel like notes. But however you like your coconut, keep a careful eye on it as it does bake quickly. If you have leftover toasted coconut, you can use it to make a batch of Coconut Rice!
Then it’s time to make the palitaw dough, which is one of the easiest doughs in the world. Just two ingredients-awesome!
Knead it a couple times to smooth it out and make sure the water is incorporated fully into all of the dough.
Now it’s time to shape the dough. I like to use an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough. It’s easier to make equal sizes and it keeps the Palitaw in a nice circular shape. However, in the Philippines, most vendors use their hands to both pinch off the dough and pat it out. It’s not too important if the size of your disks are different; but try to keep the disks at the same thickness so they cook evenly.
I put a little rice flour on the baking sheets as I’m flattening out the dough to keep the disks from sticking to the sheet. I also think it’s easier to press gently against the dough ball and then pick it up and move it a little to make your disks. Keep pressing and moving so your sticky disks don’t have a chance to adhere to the surface and you have an evenly round shape.
And now it’s time to find out how they came to be named something that translates to “it floats”. Make sure you have the sesame sugar and the coconut right by the stove so you can quickly scoop out the boiled Palitaw and dredge them straight from the pot. An assembly line system works best where you boil, then dip, and then plate them. It’s not a good idea to boil them all first and then try and dip them as they will probably stick together in a clump as they drain and cool.
Make sure your water is at a boil on high heat before dropping in the rice disks. Putting them in too early will result in overcooked Palitaw that will be mushy and falling apart. Keep the water at a boil while they cook and only put about 5-6 at a time. This process goes quickly, so have a strainer or slotted spoon ready to scoop them up once they float to the surface.
These Patilaw make such a gorgeous addition to your table. Serve them after a dinner of Chicken Satay and Green Mango Salad for a fun, summery Asian feast! Please take a moment to rate and comment on the recipe below, we love hearing from you! And show us your beautiful Palitaw by tagging us @funkyasiankitchen.com.
- 1 cup glutinous rice/sticky rice flour (mochi flour), plus 1 extra Tablespoon for shaping disks
- ½ cup water
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 275. Place the coconut on a small baking sheet and spread it out so you have an even layer. Bake it for about 5 minutes until it is a nice golden color.
- Set the coconut aside to cool and then pour it onto a plate. Mix the sugar and the sesame seeds on a separate plate. Set the plates aside near the stove where you will be boiling the rice cakes.
- Put the glutinous rice flour in a bowl and add the water. Mix with clean hands until the flour has completely absorbed the water and the dough comes together in a sticky mass. Knead it a couple of times to ensure an even consistency.
- Use a 1 Tablespoon ice cream scoop and portion out the dough onto a baking sheet sprinkled with a Tablespoon of rice flour. You should yield 12 balls.
- Then take each ball of dough and flatten it down with your hands so that you have small pancake shaped disks (Pick up the cake after each time you flatten it so it doesn’t stick to the pan.) Set the rice cakes aside on the baking sheet.
- Bring 2 quarts of water to boil over high heat in a large pot. Add the salt and stir.
- Add 5-6 pieces of rice cakes to the pot, one at a time. Let it simmer in the pot for about 1 minute, until it floats to the surface. Use a slotted spoon or strainer to remove one rice cake from the pot. Let the water drain off over the pot.
- Dip the rice cake into the coconut first and then into the sesame sugar. Make sure each side is coated well and then place it on a serving plate. Continue straining and dipping each rice cake. Place the Palitaw on a serving plate once you finish dipping.
- You can also strain all of the rice cakes at one time, but make sure to dip the pieces straight away, so they don’t have a chance to congeal and stick together in a clump.
- Continue cooking and coating until all of the rice cakes are finished. Sprinkle any remaining coconut and sesame sugar on top of the finished Palitaw. Serve immediately.
*The rice cakes are best the day they are made. But if you have any leftovers, cover the plate with plastic wrap and eat it the next day. A few seconds in the microwave can help soften it up a touch.
Keywords: filipino sweets, healthy sweets, asian desserts, palitaw, coconut, sticky rice