This recipe for coconut balls uses glutinous rice flour – also called sticky rice flour – which is available at Chinese supermarkets. Made with adzuki beans, red bean paste is also available at Chinese markets.
Red bean paste makes a nice filling because it’s quite malleable but feel free to experiment with other fillings if desired – a combination of crushed peanuts and brown sugar, or a mixture of softened butter, coconut and sugar would both be good choices.
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes (or as needed)
- 5 tablespoons sweet red bean paste (or as needed)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups flour (glutinous rice)
- 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup boiling water (or as needed)
Spread the coconut flakes on a baking sheet and set aside. Take a heaping teaspoon of red bean paste (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) and roll into a ball. Roll in the brown sugar if using. Continue until you have 10 balls. Cover and set aside while preparing the dough.
Place the glutinous rice flour in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk, using a fork to stir it into the flour.
Slowly add the boiled water, using the fork to stir it in. Knead the flour for at least 1 minute (more kneading makes the balls chewier). Then add more boiling water, 1 tablespoon or less at a time, working and shaping the dough until it has a texture similar to playdough – not too soft but easy to manipulate. (Note: Glutinous rice flour can be a bit tricky to work with – at first it looks too dry and the next thing you know the dough is sticking to your hands because you’ve added too much water. If that happens, add a bit more glutinous rice flour. On the other hand, if the dough is too dry, add more boiled water, a small amount at a time.
Roll the dough into a 10-inch log.
To fill the coconut balls: Cut off a 1-inch piece of dough. (Cover the remainder of the dough with a damp towel or wrap in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out while you are preparing the coconut balls). Roll into a ball, then flatten with the palm of your hand, so you have a 2 - 2 1/2 inch circle. Place a red bean paste ball into the center and gently fold the dough over. (To make it easier, flatten the red bean paste and spread it out a bit without coming too close to the edges).
Gently squeeze the dough and form back into a ball, rolling with your hands. Continue with the remainder of the dough.
Place the coconut balls in the boiling water. Use cooking chopsticks or a turner to move the balls occasionally so that they don’t stick to the bottom. Cook on medium-high heat (6 to 7 on the stovetop dial) until the balls rise and are floating on the top (about 6 1/2 to 7 minutes).
Roll the balls in the coconut (cooking chopsticks are excellent for this if you have them). Eat the coconut balls the same day. Enjoy!
*The amount of water needed can vary quite a bit depending on the humidity level where you live and the age of the flour.