Sticky-Rice Sweet Buns with Coconut

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes 8 Buns; Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

These treats are a breakfast or anytime pleasure served with fresh fruit and tea or coffee. Cooked sticky rice (left over from the night before, or cooked fresh for the purpose) is wrapped around shaved coconut and palm sugar, and the filled “buns” that result are quickly fried to golden. I love the smoky hit of palm sugar when you bite through the crisp outer layers of fried rice kernels into the meltingly sweet center.

Make them just before you want to serve them. Allow one or two per person. The originals were deep-fried, but they work well shallow-fried in a cast-iron skillet or wok.


  • 2 tablespoons fresh or defrosted frozen grated coconut, minced, or substitute a scant 2 tablespoons dried unsweetened grated coconut plus 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dark palm sugar, minced
  • About 2 cups cooked sticky rice, at room temperature
  • Peanut oil for shallow-frying


Place the coconut and palm sugar in two bowls by your work surface; if using dried coconut, place it in a bowl, add the warm water, stir well, and let soak for 5 minutes.

Make sure your work surface is absolutely dry (a wet surface will make the rice slippery rather than sticky, so that it won’t stick to itself when you are shaping the buns). Turn the rice out onto it. Flatten the mass of rice with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to an approximate 9-inch square. Use a dough scraper or a knife to cut it into 4 strips, then cut these crosswise in half, so you have 8 rectangles, about 4½ inches long.

Work with one strip at a time: With your thumb, make a dent about 1 inch from one end of the strip, place 1 teaspoon palm sugar and a scant teaspoon coconut in it, fold the strip over, and press on the edges to seal. You’ll have a flattened rectangular package about ½ inch thick and 2 inches long. Place on a plate, and repeat with the remaining strips and filling.

Put a plate and a spider or a slotted spoon by your stovetop. Place a wok or wide heavy skillet over high heat, add peanut oil to a depth of ½ inch, and heat to about 360°F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, test the temperature by standing a wooden chopstick or wooden spoon handle in the oil; if the oil bubbles up vigorously along the wood, it is at temperature.) Slide in one bun, and then a second. The oil will bubble up as the buns start to cook. The rice on the outside will puff up a little and start to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Use the spider or slotted spoon to turn the buns over and fry the second side until well touched with gold, another 2 to 3 minutes. Flip back onto the first side to deepen the color a little, then lift out of the oil, pausing to let excess oil drain off, and put on the plate. Cook the remaining rice buns the same way. Once you are used to the process, you will probably find that you can cook more than 2 at once. (Once the oil has cooled, store it in a clean, dry glass jar and reuse it for stir-fried dishes.)

Serve warm or at room temperature; these are best soon after they are cooked.