cake / dessert Filipino

Palitaw with Yema Fillings/ Palitao de Leche (Sticky Rice Dumplings Coated with Sugar and Coconut and Stuffed with Milk Custard)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015Enz F

I have wonderful memories of this another favorite childhood iconic dessert and street food. When I was in grade school, there was an old lady known in our neighborhood who used to man her makeshift stall just along the sides of our street. Every time 3 o’clock in the afternoon strikes, just in time for the traditional Filipino merienda, she would already display an array of well-loved Pinoy delicacies that she would sell to her patrons. Merienda time had been a typical time when crowd would begin to swarm her pwesto in order to buy and get a hand some of those freshly prepared lovely homemade snacks. Some of her bestsellers were the savory lumpia (fried spring rolls) accompanied with spicy vinegar dip, and sweet treats like turon (crispy banana rolls), banana-que (sugar-coated saba banana), maruya (banana fritters), kamote-que (sugar-coated sweet potatoes), karioka (sugar-glazed coconut balls), maja blanca (coconut pudding) and the ever timeless Palitaw (Sticky Rice Dumplings), which would never be complete without sago’t gulaman samalamig (pearl and jelly coolers) on the side.

Palitaw is a popular sweet rice cake in the Philippines similar to mochi of Japan and chapssalddeok of Korea.
Palitaw is a sweet rice dumpling popular as a snack item in the Philippines. It is also a favorite rice dessert or kakanin served on festivities and other special occasions. This is similar the sweet rice cakes of Japan (mochi) and Korea (chapssalddeok). The term “palitaw” is derived from the Filipino root word “litaw” which means “to float, to be seen, to rise, to appear or to emerge on to the surface”. The word is also used to describe the cooking process wherein rice batter shaped into flattened disks are dropped into the pot of boiling water and allowed to cook for a couple of minutes or so, depending of the thickness and density of the rice cakes. The cakes would literally float or rise on the surface of the water, a hint or indication that the rice dumplings are already done. These would then be strained to remove excess water and to allow to cool for a while. The cooked dumplings are then drenched in a plate of niyog or shredded mature coconut and then sprinkled with sugar and toasted sesame seeds (sometimes with crushed peanuts) before serving. Other non-conventional way of preparing palitaw also includes filling such as yema (milk custard), ube (purple yam) jam and fruit jams.

The term “palitaw” is derived from the Filipino root word “litaw” which means “to float, to be seen, to rise, to appear or to emerge on to the surface”.

Customarily, the rice batter used for cooking palitaw is made by soaking malagkit (sticky rice) in water overnight. Once the rice begins to soften, it is placed in a special gilingan (miller or stone grinder) to pound it into a smooth dough, adding more water as necessary. The amount of water defines the final texture of the rice dumplings. Adding a little water will make the palitaw denser and more rubbery whereas putting more water will create finer, softer and less chewy rice cakes. Following the traditional method for preparing palitaw is quite tedious and time-consuming. 

Other variations of palitaw adds fillings like yema or milk custard, hence the name palitao de leche.

Palitaw is commonly peddled in the streets along side with other favorite Filipino kakanin or rice desserts.
Nowadays, ready-made sticky rice flour has become more accessible in the nearest supermarkets and Asian stores. This would save you from overnight soaking and grinding down the sticky rice. All you have to do is simply combine the flour with water and knead it to form a smooth dough. The latter is the preferred method used by modern home cooks today. Very similar to other kakanin commonly peddled in the streets like biko, suman, bibingka and puto, palitaw is also lined with banana leaves or simply wrapped in plastic and laid in bamboo baskets to attract potential buyers. This is one of the delicacies that is truly Filipino and that always brings back the taste and delight of real home.
Palitaw with Yema Fillings/ Palitao de Leche (Sticky Rice Dumplings Coated with Sugar and Coconut and Stuffed with Milk Custard)
Number of Servings: Makes 12 to 15 dumplings

For the Palitaw (Sticky Rice Dumplings)
  • 2 cups giniling na malagkit (glutinous rice flour) 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 tsp. pandan extract (optional) 
  • ½ cup white sugar 
  • 1 cup grated coconut 
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted 
For the Yema Fillings (Milk Custard)
  • 1 can (300 mL) condensed milk 
  • 3 egg yolks 
  • 1 tbsp. butter 

Prepare Plain Palitaw (Sticky Rice Dumplings)
  1. Place the glutinous rice flour in a bowl. Put pandan extract (optional) and gradually add water to form a soft and smooth dough but firm enough to knead into a ball. 
  2. Using your floured hands, scoop about two tablespoons of the rice dough and then form it into an oval-shaped ball. Flatten the dough using the palms of your hands. Set aside on a separate plate. Repeat the process until the rest of the dough is used up. 
  3. Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with water. Bring the water into a rolling boil. Carefully drop the flatten dough into the boiling water. Do it by batch and do not overcrowd the pot. 
  4. Cook the rice dough for about 3 minutes or until the dumplings float on to the surface of the boiling water. 
  5. Scoop out the floating dough using slotted spoon. Transfer in to the strainer to drain excess water. Allow to cool for a while. 
  6. Drench the rice cake in grated coconut. Sprinkle with sugar and sesame seeds. 
  7. Arrange the coated dumplings in a platter and then serve. Enjoy! 
Prepare Yema-filled Palitaw (Sticky Rice Dumplings Stuffed with Milk Custard)
  1. Do steps 1 and 2 above. 
  2. Put about one tablespoon of yema at the middle of the flattened dough. Shape again the dough into an oval-shaped dough keeping the fillings intact in the middle. Flatten the stuffed dough using the palms of your hands. Be careful not to break the dough to avoid the fillings from oozing out. Do the same with the rest of the dough. 
  3. Continue with steps 3 to 7 above. Enjoy! 
Prepare Yema Fillings (Milk Custard)
  1. Place a saucepan on a medium to low heat. Mix together the butter, condensed milk and egg yolks. Whisk very well to evenly combine. 
  2. Stir constantly for about 10 minutes or until the custard becomes sticky. Set aside to cool. 

  1. If you want gooey fillings, serve the stuffed dumplings while hot. 
  2. You can pair the palitaw with hot beverage like tea and coffee, or with cold drinks like sago't gulaman samalamig.

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  1. I like palitaw but don't know how to make it! Just by the look at the pictures it sure is taste yummy. I am looking forward to try this at home. Thank you so much for sharing your many wonderful recipes!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. Glad that you stumbled upon my site and liked my recipes. Kindly spread the word by sharing my blog to your friends. I would really appreciate! :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Where in the Philippines does it came from?


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