10 pandan leaves (or 1 teaspoon pandan essence)
150 ml water
100 g gula melaka*, grated
150 g glutinous rice flour
1 Tbs tapioca starch
2 Tbs icing sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
pinch of salt
Blend pandan leaves and water in a blender into juice. Strain the pandan juice through a fine sieve into a jug, discarding the solids. Take a pinch of grated gula melaka and roll it into a ball the size of a 5-cent coin. Repeat with the remaining sugar. Set aside ready to be used.
In a large bowl, combine glutinous rice flour, tapioca flour, icing sugar and pandan juice. Using your hands, knead the mixture into a wet dough.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Pinch a small piece of the dough (about 20 g) and drop it into the boiling water. Let it cook until it floats to the surface then scoop it out. Knead the cooked dough back into the main dough until it forms a smooth and sticky dough. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Wrap in cling film to prevent it from drying out and set aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the desiccated coconut with a pinch of salt. Steam the coconut for 5 minutes then spread on a tray to cool completely.
Bring the same pot of water to the boil again and have the tray of desiccated coconut ready, as you will have to do a few things at once at this point. Take a small piece of the pandan dough (about 15 g) and roll it into a ball, then flatten slightly in your palm. Place a gula melaka ball in the centre, fold the dough over, seal the edges and roll it back into a ball. Working in batches of 5-10, quickly drop the balls into the boiling water and let them cook while you make more balls with the rest of the dough.
Once the balls are cooked, they will float to the surface. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, shake off the excess water and drop them in the desiccated coconut. Roll them around until they are nicely coated. Let them cool down before transferring to a serving plate and tucking in!
*Gula melaka, or dark palm sugar, is commonly used in Malaysian and Indonesian cooking. Sold in Asian grocers, gula melaka usually comes in a log shape; don’t get it mixed up with the light palm sugar, which is usually sold as small discs. Please be mindful to try and buy sustainably produced gula melaka, and stop the unethical practice of forest logging that has destroyed many of the orangutan’s habitat in Malaysia and Indonesia.