It's tempting to label palitaw as cakes but they're more dumplings than cakes. Rolled and flattened rice dough is dropped in a pot of boiling water until it floats to the surface by which time it is fully cooked. Palitaw, from the word litaw (literally, seen) is descriptive of how the dumpling appears on the surface of the water after hiding at the bottom of the pot. The cooked dumpling is rolled in a mixture of grated coconut, sugar and toasted sesame seeds and served.
Palitaw is a snack and, occasionally, a dessert in the Philippines. They are commonly sold in the market alongside other rice cakes in various sizes and shapes.
The first time we tried making palitaw at home, we had to experiment on the flour-water ratio. I have since learned that the ideal starting ratio is 2:1 -- two parts rice flour with one part water. And, to make the sweetness of the garnish pop, it is a good idea to add a pinch of salt to the dough. For best results, give the dough time to rest before shaping.
Rice flour, not glutinous rice flour, is used in this recipe (see article on rice varieties). The cooked palitaw will still have a slightly chewy mouth feel despite the absence of glutinous rice flour because the dough is kneaded before they are rolled and flattened.
If, however, you prefer an even more chewy texture, you can always mix rice flour and glutinous rice flour together. I suggest a ratio of three parts rice flour and one part glutinous rice flour as a starting point.
- 1 cup rice (not glutinous) flour
- a pinch of salt
- 2 cups
- freshly grated coconut
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Place the rice flour in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the salt. Pour in half a cup of water and mix until the mixture forms a dough. Knead lightly for about five minutes. If the dough is too crumbly, wet your hands and continue kneading. Repeat until the dough no longer crumbles. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
Pour water into a pot to a depth of at least six inches. Start heating the water.
Form the dough into a log about an inch wide. Pinch off uniformly sized pieces about two inches long. Form each piece into a ball then flatten between the palm of your hands.
Drop the flattened dough in briskly boiling water a few pieces at a time. Scoop out once the dough floats to the surface.
Toss the freshly grated coconut, sugar and toasted sesame seeds. Dredge both sides of the cooked dough in the coconut-sugar mixture and arrange on a plate. Serve.
Tip: You can make a huge batch of palitaw and store it in the freezer. Make the dough, cook in water, cool then stack between pieces of greaseproof paper. They keep for weeks. To reheat, steam then roll in the coconut-sugar mixture.