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Thai Sweet Rice Balls in Coconut Cream Syrup

I have never eaten a bad rice dumpling and I believe, there’s no such thing as a bad rice dumpling. It’s so simple and a five years old would probably perfectly execute the warm and sweet pot of Thai rice dumpling at first try. I am not kidding, we grew up cooking this dish every other weekend as long as I could remember. Late afternoon, enjoying the warm sun bathing in our front yard with the trays of colorful glutinous rice dough, rolling the fragrant dough into tiny balls and savouring every delightful moment with our family are what I remembered about this comforting treat.

My family knew how I missed the taste and flavour of home so they send us the pictures of the same old, warm bowl of rice dumpling. The idea was to cheer me up and inspire me with sweet memory, it did bring down the sunshine… but also nostalgic craving of melt-in-the mouth sweet rice balls.

Thai sweet rice balls in coconut cream syrup is called “Bua Loi” in Thai. It is made with glutinous rice flour infused in natural food color from pandan leaves, pumpkin, taro, flowers, etc. The colorful rice bowl is cooked in boiling water for a few minutes before serving in the warm and delightful coconut cream syrup.

These rice balls are seriously addictive. Once your tongue gets the taste within their fragile texture, there is no turning back. Every balls is carried within the characteristic of natural ingredients used for their colors. The greens are fresh and earthy while the yellows are comforting and warm. It is like a beautiful dessert delivered by the garden, by nature.

Thai Sweet Rice Balls in Coconut Cream Syrup (Bua Loi)

Ingredients: (6-8 servings)

2 cup glutinous rice flour- divided into 4 equal parts

Water for extracting natural colors and form the dough- room temperature

1 cup tapioca flour or corn starch

5-6 pandan leaves

1/4 cup pumpkin- steamed until cooked and soft

4-5 butterfly pea flowers

4 cup coconut cream

3/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp balm sugar

1/2 tsp salt


  1. Extract green color from pandan leaves by grinding the pandan leaves in food processor with a little water and strand the juice through the fine sift. Do the same with butterfly pea flowers to get blue color. You may also see other color option from natural food coloring post here.
  2. Divide glutinous rice flour into 4 parts, add green color in one bowl, add blue to another, leave one bowl without color, add cooked pumpkin to the last bowl.
  3. Work one bowl at the time, gradually add water little by little to form the stiff dough. Knead well until smooth and pliable. Do the same treatment to another bowl. For the bowl with pumpkin, crumble cooked pumpkin into glutinous rice flour and add a little water in. gently handle the pumpkin version because the dough tend to be very sticky, add more flour if require.
  4. At this stage you will get 4 colors dough, blue, green, yellow and white. Roll each rice dough into tiny rice balls. Dust them with some tapioca flour or corn flour to prevent them from sticking together.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to boil with 1-2 pandan leaves. Once the water is boiling, add rice balls and cook them for 3-5 few minutes. When the rice balls float over the surface, then they are ready. Rinse them in cool water and keep aside.
  6. Bring 4 cup of coconut cream and 1 1/2 cup of water to simmer over the medium heat. Add sugar, palm sugar and salt. You may add pandan leaves to get the beautiful fragrance in the syrup. Try not to boil the coconut cream by continuously stir until sugar is dissolved.
  7. Add cooked rice balls and simmer further for a few minutes. Adjust the sweetness of the dish. And serve warm in small dessert bowls.

As I writing this post merely from the memories and pictures my sister sent. It felt really comforting thinking about how warm and delightful the rice balls were. They were so delicate and melting. The aroma of pandan leaves was gloriously beautiful lingering in every sip of dense cream.

What I loved the most was all ingredients were within our home, growing within our fences and farms. I will be making the pumpkin version with Yaseen soon. I know it’s the perfect dessert dish for our dry winter.


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