April 9, 2009

palitaw & pichi-pichi

palitaw rolled in grated fresh coconut then sprinkled
with a mixture of toasted sesame seeds and sugar

pichi-pichi rolled in grated fresh coconut

Excited about finally trying out the coconut grater we got, a couple of very Filipino desserts (or snacks) instantly came to my mind. They both require rolling preferably in freshly grated coconut. It's a well known fact that rice is a major food in Asia. In the Philippines, it's usually served as often as three times a day along with other dishes. There are a number of desserts and snacks using rice as a main ingredient. Quite heavy on the tummy but we grew up eating a variety of dishes and snacks made with rice. I have since cut back on my rice intake, but I will always have a craving for it. Aside from rice, we also make use of other root crops, like ube or purple yam, sweet potato and cassava or yucca, to name a few. Back in the Philippines, I never really paid much attention to the kind of rice used for the palitaw. We usually go to the public market and simply ask the vendors to grind some rice to use for the "palitaw" and they take care of everything for you. So my confusion with the rice was understandable I guess. The first time I made palitaw, I used regular rice flour which didn't turn out quite right. The next time I made them, I made sure I used sticky or glutinous rice flour, and they turned out much better, with the right chewy texture. For the pichi-pichi or cassava, I used grated cassava sold frozen in most Asian stores. Along with the coconut grater, my husband also ordered a few other interesting ingredients, spices, a seed toaster (shown below with the rotary coconut grater). It worked great with the sesame seeds that are indispensable when making palitaw). We got them from Buck's Fifth Avenue.

PALITAW (poached rice cakes with grated coconut)

sesame seeds, lightly toasted & fragrant
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups glutinous rice flour (sold in Asian markets)

Start by boiling water in a deep skillet, wok or saucepan. In a skillet (or using a seed toaster), toast some sesame seeds until lightly browned. Cool then combine with sugar. Measure the rice flour into a large bowl. Gradually add enough water to the rice flour to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth. Form into oval shapes (about 3.5" x 2") and flatten. Into the boiling water, drop the flattened disks of dough a few at a time. Simmer or poach for a few minutes. A good indication that they're cooked is when the cakes float or come to the surface. Take them out of the water with a slotted spoon and drain by pressing the back of the spoon against a dry clean towel. Coat both sides of the cakes with grated coconut. Sprinkle with the sugar & toasted sesame seeds mixture or serve on the side. Serve with extra grated coconut and sugar.

poaching the palitaw / toasted sesame seeds & sugar mixture

(this is a quick and easy microwave recipe version)

1 package frozen grated cassava
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or pandan flavoring

In a large microwavable bowl, combine and mix well the above ingredients. Microwave on high for 4 minutes, then stir. Return to the microwave for another 4 minutes, for a total of 8 minutes cooking time. Scoop into small balls or pieces, roll in freshly grated coconut. Arrange on platter & serve.

fluffy freshly grated coconut


  1. I love palitaw and I haven't made it ages (mainly b/c I can't find freshly grated coconut in Minnesota). But now that I have a coconut grater (the old-fashioned kind), you've got me craving this! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Same here...before I made this palitaw, I had a terrible craving for it. I agree, freshly grated coconut is just perfect for this! I appreciate your comments.