So, 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 queried further. I was suprised she didn’t know what I thought to be a mainstream Filipino snack food but, nevertheless, proceeded to explain. “Deep-fried glutinous rice balls coated with caramel”, I said. “Ah, tungi tungi!”, she exclaimed. I soon realized what caused her confusion and have 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!
Requiring but four ingredients and less than 30 minutes to make, carioca are a quick and easy merienda to prepare at home. Be sure to “poke” the dough balls with the bamboo stick before deep-frying to prevent them from “exploding” and to lessen the splattering of hot oil. It took a bit of experimentation before I settled on the right proportions for the dough, finding 1-1/2 cups glutinous flour to 1 cup water (plus a tablespoon or so here and there) to yield the soft yet chewy texture I like. Give this carioca recipe a try and let me know what you think.
- 1-1/2 cups glutinous rice flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- bamboo skewers
- In a bowl, combine glutinous rice flour and the 1 cup of water. Stir until flour is moistened. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, if needed, 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.
- In a saucepan over low heat, combine dark brown sugar and the 2 tablespoons water. Cook, stirring regularly, until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture shimmers. When sugar is dissolved, continue to cook, WITHOUT stirring, for about 4 to 5 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Occasionally swirl pan to prevent from burning.
- Gently toss carioca balls in syrup to fully coat. Remove from pan and arrange on parchment or wax paper in a single layer. Allow to cool and then skewer 3 to 4 pieces into bamboo sticks.