Sweet Rice Dumplings (Nom Plaiy Aiy)
Makes 25 to 30 dumplings.
8 1/2 cups water
1/4 pound palm sugar
1 1/2 cups glutinous rice flour, or more if necessary
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut or packaged unsweetened shredded coconut
Put the water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, pinch off pieces of palm sugar and roll them into small balls, about 3/4 inch in diameter; you should have 25 to 30. Set aside.
Remove 1/2 cup of the water from the pot. Put the 1 1/2 cups rice flour in a small bowl and add the hot water a little at a time, mixing until a smooth dough forms. It should have the consistency of pie dough and should not stick to your hands (you can adjust the amounts of water and flour to get this right). Roll a rounded teaspoon of the dough into a ball and then flatten it into a circle (you will want to make the same number of rice flour circles as there are sugar balls). Place a ball of palm sugar in the center and wrap the rice dough around it, pinching it closed and rolling gently to smooth the edges (the resulting dumpling should be about 1 1/4 inches in diameter). Repeat with the remaining dough and palm sugar balls.
Add the dumplings to the boiling water, about a dozen at a time. They are cooked when they float to the top, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Meanwhile, dry-roast the sesame seeds in a small heavy skillet over medium-high heat, shaking constantly, until light brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Pound briefly with a mortar and pestle or pulse in a mini-chop two or three times to release their flavor. Mix the sesame seeds with the salt.
When the dumplings are all cooked, arrange them on a plate and sprinkle with the coconut and the sesame-seed mixture. Serve immediately.
Recipe excerpted from The Elephant Walk by Longteine De Monteiro (1998)