These doughnuts with a difference are made from sticky rice flour. Common in Shan markets in northern Burma, from Kalaw to Hsipaw, they’re also made and sold in northern Thailand, in towns where there are large populations of Shan people.

Street-side cooks deep-fry them in plenty of oil, in large woks, and their doughnuts are about 3 inches across. My home-style method produces smaller versions of the doughnuts, fried in less oil, in small, manageable batches.

Because there is no wheat flour in the doughnuts, they are delicate when cooked. As they cook in the hot oil, they puff up and become hollow. They’re best eaten hot and fresh, but I also like how, once they cool, they soften and sag a little.

You can make the doughnuts with white rice flour only (use 1 cup in that case), but I love the purple-gray tint that black sticky rice flour gives, so I grind a little raw black rice to a powder in my coffee grinder or food processor and add it to the dough.

Traditionally these are drizzled with a little palm sugar syrup after cooking. I prefer a more indulgent approach. I serve them with small bowls of palm sugar sauce, so that guests can dip their doughnuts into it as they eat. Heaven!

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Ingredients

  • Scant 1 cup white sticky rice flour, plus a little extra flour for shaping
  • 1 tablespoon black sticky rice flour (see the headnote; optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup water

Palm Sugar Syrup

  • ½ cup palm sugar shavings
  • ½ cup water
  • Peanut oil for deep-frying

Method

Combine the rice flours, baking soda, salt, and water in a medium bowl and stir to make a dough. Smear it with a wooden spoon or your hand to blend it until very smooth (if it is too stiff or dry, add another tablespoon or so of water, and blend it in). Let stand for 5 minutes.

Put a little rice flour on a plate and put out a second plate. Scoop up 2 teaspoons of the dough. If it is sticky, touch it lightly to the rice flour, then roll it into a ball between your palms and set it on the other plate. Repeat with the remaining dough. You should have 12 balls of dough. Set aside for 30 minutes to firm up.

Meanwhile, prepare the sugar syrup: Combine the palm sugar and the ½ cup water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and transfer to one or more small bowls.

When ready to proceed, put out two lightly oiled plates or a lightly oiled baking sheet. Pick up a ball of dough and gently roll it back and forth between your palms to make a small rope about 4 to 5 inches long. Press the ends together to make a ring and set on one of the plates or the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining balls.

Pour 2 inches of oil into a large stable wok, a wide pot, or a deep-fryer and heat over medium-high heat to 350°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, stand a wooden chopstick or wooden spoon handle in the oil; if the oil bubbles up gently along the wood, it is at temperature. (This deep-frying is done at a lower temperature than most, so that the insides of the doughnuts get cooked before the outsides burn.) Put out a spider or slotted spoon and another large platter or plate.

Slide 3 or 4 dough rings into the hot oil, without overlapping, then lower the heat slightly and let them cook, the oil bubbling up around them, for about a minute. (If the rings start to brown in the first minute, lower the heat a little more.) Gently turn them over and continue cooking until they are browned and firmer, 3 to 4 minutes. Use the spider or slotted spoon to lift them out, pausing to let excess oil drain off, and onto the plate.

Serve immediately (the doughnuts soften as they cool), with the small bowls of palm sugar syrup for dunking.

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