Carioca with brown sugar glaze are the perfect snack or dessert! These fried rice balls are sweet, chewy and gluten-free!
I was on my ritual afternoon phone chat with my mother last Saturday when she asked what I was cooking for my website. “Carioca”, I answered. “What is that?”, she asked.
I was surprised she didn’t know what I thought to be a popular Filipino snack food but nevertheless proceeded to explain, “Deep-fried glutinous rice balls coated with caramel.”
“Ah, tungi tungi!”, she exclaimed. I soon realized what caused her confusion and that is our many Philippine dialects to blame! “Tungi” means to skewer in Kapampangan and carioca are called tungi-tungi in our region as they are commonly sold skewered in bamboo sticks.
With only 4 ingredients and ready in 30 minutes, carioca is a quick and easy snack to prepare at home. What took a little bit more work was figuring out the right proportions for the dough. After a couple of experimentation, I found 1 1/2 cups glutinous rice flour to 1 cup of water ratio to yield the soft and chewy texture I like.
Tips on How to Make Carioca:
- Want to amp up flavor? Swap water with coconut milk or coconut juice!
- The dough should not feel dry or too sticky. If needed, add more water a tablespoon at a time until dough is smooth and pliable.
- “Poke” the dough balls with the bamboo stick before deep-frying to prevent them from “exploding” and to lessen the splattering of hot oil.
- Maintain optimal temperature of 350 to 375 F during frying. Too hot and the rice balls will brown on the outside before completely cooked through on the inside. Too low and the rice balls will absorb more grease.
- Use enough oil so the rice balls are submerged. The balls will float to surface when done.
How to Make Caramel Syrup:
You can either use the dry or wet method in making the caramel sauce. I like to use the wet method which is simply adding 1/4 cup of water to 1 cup of sugar and boiling off the mixture until thick and golden in color.
- Stir until the sugar is dissolved but once the mixture comes to a boil, DO NOT stir as the agitation may cause crystallization and result to a grainy caramel.
- Take the caramel off the heat when it’s a shade slightly lighter than the color you like as it will continue to cook from the residual heat. Work quickly in coating the rice balls as the syrup thickens as it cools.
Give this carioca recipe a try. It’s amazing with tsokolate for midday snack or anytime you need a sweet treat!
For the Carioca
- 1 1/2 cups glutinous rice flour
- 1 cup water (and 1 tablespoon or so more if needed)
For the Sugar Coating
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- bamboo skewers
- In a bowl, combine glutinous rice flour and the 1 cup of water. Stir until flour is moistened. If needed, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to form a firm but smooth and pliable dough. Dough should not feel dry or too sticky.
- Scoop about 1 teaspoonful of dough and roll in palm of hands into 1-inch balls. Using the sharp end of one bamboo skewer, poke through each dough ball.
- In a wide pan over medium heat, heat about 3-inches deep of oil. Gently add balls into oil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 to 10 minutes or until golden. Do not overcrowd pan, cook in batches as needed.
- With a slotted spoon, remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
- Dip carioca in the sugar syrup until fully coated. Arrange in single layer on a wire rack set over a pan or on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.
- Skewer in bamboo skewers if desired.
For the Sugar Coating
- In a saucepan, combine dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup water. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Continue to cook WITHOUT stirring until syrup golden brown.