Palitaw: Glutinous Rice Cake With Coconut

imageThe Philippines is known for many unique and sweet delicacies prepared from rice, coconut and sugar which are among its major agricultural products. One of these delicacies is called palitaw, loosely translated as “to appear.”  It probably got its name because in the preparation process — while boiling — the one sign that this glutinous rice cake is done is when it starts to rise  (appear) to the surface of the pot.

Palitaw  is always present in family gatherings and town fiestas, and is often sold by street vendors especially during the holidays, including  Christmas. It is a “flat” cake made from glutinous rice flour (available in most Asian grocery stores), sweetened with cane sugar, and topped by shredded coconut and toasted sesame seeds.  Other variations of this cake may include those that are flavored with substitute or additional ingredients such as ube or purple yam which gives it a different color and taste.

This rice cake is really easy to make — no baking necessary.


2 cups glutinous rice flour

1/2 cup cane sugar

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup sesame seeds

10 cups water for boiling

Enough water to make the dough


In a small frying pan, toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned.  Set aside.  Place the glutinous rice flour into a deep bowl and gradually pour in  water, constantly stirring to make a soft dough.  Knead the dough and form into 3 to 4-inch oval shaped cakes.  Flatten the cakes.  Bring 10 cups water to a boil in a large pot.  Drop the cakes into the boiling water in batches.  Simmer for a few minutes until the cakes rise up to the surface.  Remove from the pan.  Drain by laying the cakes on a plate or flat surface lined with a clean kitchen towel, and pressing them with a spatula or the back of a large spoon.  Coat both sides of each cake with shredded coconut.  Sprinkle both sides with sugar and toasted sesame seeds.  To have a truly Filipino experience, serve the cakes on fresh banana leaves.


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