For my birthday this year, I had a couple of my really good friends devise a 3-course Thai dinner for me. They are both from Thailand and really excellent cooks. One of them I went to culinary school with, and she was really my partner in crime when it came to adding vibrant (probably Asian) flavors to a curriculum that was very geared towards classical French “harmonious” flavors. Sorry, but I sort of prefer when flavors give you a nice “wake up” kick.

Anyways, the meal was amazing. My friends set the table and even printed the menu we would have for the night. I was literally in heaven. Though the menu wasn’t vegan (don’t worry guys, I’ll be making vegan versions!), it was traditional Thai dishes, which is exactly the stuff I love.

Anyways, I was especially taken by dessert, as I usually am. My friends served me these small, colorful glutinous rice balls in pandan-infused coconut milk. Pandan and coconut were made to be together.

But anyways, I loved the balls were naturally colored, which is not only great from a health aspect, but it also is infused with the flavor of the food, which colored it. For my birthday dinner, we made 3 flavors - pandan, pumpkin and taro. The pandan was more of a juice. The pumpkin and taro were mashed.

The neat thing I noticed was the balls made from juice or anything liquid-y was more chewy. The ones made with a mashed food were softer in texture. Both were good and I think it’s nice to include both options to provide varying textures.

Bua Loy - Glutinous Rice Balls in Coconut Milk

(Makes about 25 small pieces)

Flavored Rice Balls:

  • 1/2 cup glutinous rice
  • 3-4 tablespoons pandan juice (or beet juice, mashed sweet potatoes, taro, or pumpkin)

Coconut Milk:

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup palm or light brown sugar, more to taste
  • dash salt
  • 2 pandan leaves

Directions

  1. Mix glutinous rice flour and pandan juice until a ball of dough forms. Dough should resemble play-dough consistency and not be sticky to the hands.
  2. Roll dough into a log. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Form into small balls. Place on sheet pan. Glutinous rice balls can be frozen at this point.
  3. To cook the glutinous rice balls, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add in the fresh or frozen balls. Simmer until the balls float. Strain and place into a bowl of water.
  4. To prepare the coconut milk mixture, heat coconut milk, sugar and pandan leaves on medium heat until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let pandan leaves steep for about 5 minutes before discarding.
  5. To serve, spoon glutinous rice balls into a bowl and add infused coconut milk.