Coconut is used in both the chewy exterior and a caramelized center of this treat. Southern Thais often eat it as breakfast, but it is sweet enough for a dessert.
What You Will Need
- 3 cups fresh or thawed frozen shredded coconut (10½ oz.), divided
- 1 cup young coconut juice (coconut water)
- 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp. raw cane sugar
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sticky rice flour
- 3⁄4 cup rice flour
- 1 package frozen banana leaves, thawed, cut into twenty-five 6-by-4-inch rectangles, with 2 opposite corners snipped
At least 3 hours and up to 1 day before serving, prepare the filling: In a wok set over medium-low heat, add 1 cup of the coconut, the coconut juice, sugars, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until dry, dark, and candylike, 35–40 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment paper. Shape a teaspoon of the candy into a ball (about 10 grams) and place on the sheet. Repeat with the remaining coconut mixture to make about 20 balls. Set aside until firm and dry, at least 2 hours or overnight.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and ½ cup water. Knead until the dough is smooth, slightly moist, and does not stick. Roll a teaspoon of dough into a ball with your hands. Flatten it into a disk, then wrap around one of the candied coconut balls, pressing to cover any holes. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining coconut and 3 cups of water. Mix and squeeze until the pulp is saturated, then set a fine sieve over a medium pot and squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Whisk the rice flour and a pinch of kosher salt into the liquid. Set the pot over low heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is slightly thickened, 3–4 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Preheat a large bamboo steamer over medium heat. One at a time, prepare each ball to be steamed: Drop a ball into the coconut cream mixture, use a spoon to remove it with an additional tablespoon or so of the coconut cream, then transfer to the center of the matte side of one banana leaf. Bring one of the leaf tips over the coconut mixture, folding the cut sides to enclose the exterior of the package. Repeat with other tip to overlap the points. Thread a toothpick into the leaves to seal the package.
Steam the packages until the coconut cream is firm and set, 20–25 minutes. Let cool and serve at room temperature.