I made palitaw (sticky rice treat) for the first time for my mom's surprise birthday dinner last November. With the help of my sister and her mother-in-law, we managed to pull it off without a hitch. It was an intimate affair with family and her close cousins in a dreamy garden setting.
We went with a Filipino menu because mom loves the stuff. Since I was busy in the office and couldn't risk cooking large quantities of food at home without arousing suspicion, I offered to make dessert, inconspicuous as that can be. It was also the perfect occasion to try my hand at making palitaw, one of my favorite local snacks. Yes, it's really more of an afternoon snack but it's sweet enough as a nice ending to a meal.
I wasn't sure how easy it would be until I happened upon a show on TV which had teams of expats running around the streets of Manila in an Amazing Race style contest. One of their challenges was streetside palitaw-making. Here was a bunch of foreigners who have probably never even tried the stuff much less know what the finished product is supposed to look like digging their hands into a bowl of what looked like white paste actually making decent looking palitaw. If they can do it, so can I!
A few months later, I did.
5 cups rice flour; plus
another cup to keep your hands dry
3 cups water
1/3 cup sesame seeds or linga
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups freshly grated coconut
Boil some water in a large pot.
While waiting for this to boil, toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet.
They burn very easily so make sure you are constantly moving the seeds. Once toasted, set aside to cool completely.
Now here is where it starts to get real sticky. Mix the rice flour with the
water until a soft mixture forms. Wash and dry your hands carefully then coat them with the extra flour. Take a pinch of dough, about a teaspoonful, and flatten it between your palms. Keeping it from sticking to your palms is the only true challenge. If it's too sticky, don't be afraid to add more flour until you form a solid patty. It took me a while to get the technique. I even had to call on my aunt's cook next door to show me how she does it.
When nicely formed, drop it gingerly in the boiling water. You can cook about three pieces at a time, depending on the size of your pot. Remove with a slotted spoon as soon as it rises to the surface. Coat it in the grated coconut and arrange on a serving plate.
Mix the sugar with the cooled sesame seeds. It's important that you don't combine it while the sesame seeds are still hot or the sugar will melt. Then you can either dust this over the coated palitaw or serve it on the side.
I'm not sure exactly how many this recipe makes, but there was more than enough for the 20 or so guests. You can freeze left over palitaw without the sugar mixutre in an air-tight container and then steam before serving.
These turned out great and was quite a hit! And I'm happy to say I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between these and those from a popular local restaurant where I've ordered it many times. :)