Brown Sugary Balls

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My grandmother and her sisters sometimes make a quick dessert of caramel covered, deep-fried doughballs made from rice flour, macapuno, and water.  They call these sweet spheres "Cascarone".  Problem is, they also refer to another dessert that they make as "Cascarone" as well.  This second "Cascarone" is also a deep-fried dough; but it is shaped by rolling it off of the tines of a fork (kind of like gnocchi) and covered with a white sugar glaze.

I’m confused too.

I guess the term "Cascarone" refers, in general, to a deep-fried dessert covered in sugar?  I have no idea.  I didn’t want to question my grandmother, lest I be finger-jabbed in my Adam’s apple.  Further research into this matter was fruitless as well (and by research, I mean Google).  I did however, find a similar dessert in my Memories of Philippine Kitchens cookbook that was referred to as "Bunuelos"–the  dough was completely different, but these Bunuelos were shaped into spheres, deep-fried, and covered in syrup.

Anyhoo, I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated with the name of this dessert.  It’s not that I don’t believe my grandmother, it’s just that I’ve never heard of "Cascarone" in this context before.  If any of my Filipino readers could provide some clarity, it would be much appreciated.  Until then though, I will just refer to this dessert as Brown Sugary Balls.

That’s right.

Brown Sugary Balls.

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These are not to be confused with Chocolate Salty Balls.  My Brown Sugary Balls are waaaay better.  They are quick and easy to make and they really hit the spot.  I’m serious.

All you have to do is mix some rice flour with a bit of water and some macapuno until a dough is formed.  The dough shouldn’t be too sticky and should be easy to work with.  Then, you can begin making separate bite-size spheres.

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After you have shaped all of the spheres by rolling bits of dough between your palms, fry them in hot oil until they are golden (the spheres, not your palms).

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Finally, after draining the spheres on some paper towels, throw them in a bowl and drizzle with some caramel.

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Mmmm. Brown Sugary Balls.  Sweet and crisp on the outside, chewy and coconutty on the inside.

Cascarone (AKA Brown Sugary Balls)
Yield: about 12-15 doughballs

1 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup water, divided
1/4 cup macapuno (macapuno is shredded coconut that can be found in jars at Asian markets)

For the glaze:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon water

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, baking soda, and half of the water (1/4 cup at this point) and mix well. Slowly add the rest of the water, little by little, until a dough is formed.  You may not have to use all of the water.

Add the macapuno to the dough and mix well.  If the dough is too sticky, add more rice flour if needed.  The dough should be easy to work with.

Using your hands, break off small pieces of the dough (about 1 tablespoon) and roll between your palms to form spheres.  Place the spheres on wax or parchment paper.

In a large frying pan, heat a half-inch of oil (canola or vegetable) over medium-high heat.  Test the oil by gently dropping a small piece of dough into the pan. If the dough sizzles gently, the oil is ready.  Place the rest of the doughballs in the pan and fry until golden brown. Place the fried doughballs on paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, make the caramel by combining the brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When the sugar and water reach a boil, reduce heat and continue to stir until all of the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.

While the doughballs are still warm, place them in a medium bowl and pour the caramel over them.  Toss to coat the doughballs with the caramel. Serve immediately.

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  • Wandering Chopsticks August 27, 2007, 1:10 pm

    I don’t know about cascarone, but the Mexican bunuelos I’ve had were closer to elephant ears. Fried flour tortillas topped with sugar and cinnamon.
    Know what my brown sugary balls are? No, not that! I’m a girl! I use instant biscuit in can, cut each biscuit in half, roll into a ball, and fry that as doughnut holes. :)

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  • Fran August 27, 2007, 3:48 pm

    The other cascarone you described…(the one that’s rolled off a fork) is what we called guguria (pronounced gudzuria) in Guam (see here http://tinyurl.com/396ync). My best friend’s mother made the absolute best guguria (unfortunately, she’s not Tita). That’s the Chamorro word for it. My husband said his mom (Ilocano) had a different name for these, but I can’t even begin to try to spell it!

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  • Fran August 27, 2007, 3:53 pm

    OOPs! to use that url, remove the ). at the end!

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  • Burnt Lumpia August 27, 2007, 5:46 pm

    Dub C, for being a chick, your brown sugary balls sound delicious.
    Thanks Fran! Those guguria are EXACTLY what I was referring to for the ones rolled off of a fork.

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  • Janice August 27, 2007, 6:53 pm

    mmmm donuts…*drools*
    those look like those donuts they serve at Chinese buffets…
    mmm Chinese buffet…*drools*

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  • henrychan August 27, 2007, 7:01 pm

    hey BL!
    those look sooo good right now (just finished dinna)…
    Have you run across any stores selling these or even the other cascarones?

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  • joey August 28, 2007, 4:27 am

    You read my mind! As I was reading the name you decided to call this snack, I kept giggling to myself thinking, “Like Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls!” :) Hahaha!
    Whatever they are called, they look good! I like any sweet fried dough :)

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  • oggi August 28, 2007, 7:12 am

    They are also called carioca and in my hometown, bicho. Different regions in the Philippines, different names. And in Japan they’re kushi dango or chi chi dango. To me they are yummy sweet chewy balls!:D

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  • brilynn August 28, 2007, 10:05 pm

    I had to google what macapuno was, but even without knowing I wanted some of these!

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  • Burnt Lumpia August 29, 2007, 7:57 am

    Janice, if you’re referring to those deep-fried sesame-covered balls at dim sum restaurants, you are right. The interior texture of the Cascarone is very similar to those, kind of chewy and gummy, but in a good way.
    Henry, I haven’t seen these before in any store. There might be a small chance to find something like this in a Filipino market.
    Joey, I’m glad you got a chuckle from my balls, teehee. But yes, you are right, any fried dough is a good dough.
    Oggi, I guess no matter the name, they all taste great;)
    Sorry about that bri, I should’ve clarified that in my post. Macapuno are a type of preserved shredded coconut from the Philippines. You can find a jar of Macapuno at Asian markets. I’ve updated my recipe in this post to reflect that. Thanks for pointing it out.

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  • Hillary August 29, 2007, 8:53 am

    The coconut seems to add the best part! Mmmm…they’re like Munchkins, haha, but better I’m sure!

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  • Christine August 29, 2007, 7:50 pm

    Fried dough in any shape and form is goooooood! I actually try to stay away, the horrors, but I have an addictive personality when it comes to food. See that second gorgeous picture of yours? I can wolf that down in 60 seconds!

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  • Patricia Scarpin August 30, 2007, 9:47 am

    Fried dough covered with caramel?? Please, send some my way! :)

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  • irmathin August 30, 2007, 2:32 pm

    BL:
    Did you use glutinous rice flour?

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  • Burnt Lumpia August 30, 2007, 3:22 pm

    Hillary, thanks for stopping by! The coconut is a very good part of this dessert.
    Christine, 60 seconds? We should have a Cascarone eating contest!
    Hi Patricia, I wish I could send you some, but they tend to get soggy if not eaten right away.
    irmathin, I used sweet rice flour. The Mochiko brand that comes in a white box with the blue star on it.

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  • caninecologne September 6, 2007, 8:01 pm

    my mom calls these carioca. she put three on a short barbeque stick. they were fun snack to eat when we were kids.

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  • Burnt Lumpia September 6, 2007, 9:36 pm

    Hi caninecologne. You are the second person to call these carioca, which is a much better name than I called them:)

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  • caninecologne September 9, 2007, 8:07 pm

    i like brown sugary balls better!

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  • Trina September 18, 2007, 2:42 am

    Yes, we call it carioca too. I love it and didn’t know that it was that easy to make. I would usually see that in the palengke (wet market) but nowadays these can also be found in the malls here in Manila where a lot of kakanin stalls have sprung up.

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  • Steamy Kitchen November 3, 2007, 4:32 am

    hee hee! “brown balls” hee hee!

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  • Donna L. December 6, 2007, 12:39 am

    We called these cascaron (no “e” at the end). They were a favorite at the county fair.

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  • Sereena January 29, 2008, 2:48 pm

    I love your story…sounds just like I remember it from my own grandma…Cascarone or Kakanin is how I remember it!!

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  • jaimee April 8, 2008, 10:04 pm

    I know this as carioca too. It’s one of my favorite desserts and I’ve been looking for this recipe. Thanks!!!!

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  • emmisme May 9, 2008, 9:08 pm

    I’ve always known them as cascaron, except my mom uses milk for the liquid and dessicated coconut then rolls them in a torpedo shape. She is Ilocano but a Tagalog relative calls them Bitsu Bitsu. Never heard them called carioca.

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  • Jessica September 25, 2008, 12:02 pm

    I really can’t believe that I was able to find this recipe! My Lola is suffering from alzheimer’s these days, and doesn’t remember the dishes she once prepared for us so lovingly. Cascarone was one of those, which she last made for us when we were in grade school. And yes–there were several dishes she called by the same name. So, I’m as confused as you, BL. I just can’t wait to go home and make these for myself!

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  • nina September 28, 2008, 1:04 pm

    hi, who ever posted this great recipe from the philippine, thanks, I was looking for this recipe for long time and now I’ve finally got it, this is one of my favorite snaks back home,I hope that this is the right recipe i was looking for carioca balls with stick.

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  • Scott December 6, 2008, 11:27 pm

    Thanks for this post. Cascarone in my family is this exact item. Off to the kitchen to make some now!

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  • pokffdv April 7, 2009, 8:25 pm

    yoomy yooomy

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  • ilander00 April 17, 2009, 9:05 am

    this is also commonly sold in cebu by street vendors near schools. although they shape them in smaller balls for the kids (about 1/2 diameter), it’s pretty much the same. in cebu they’re called qui-qui.
    although, there’s also another snack called qui-qui in cebu which is battered and fried hard boiled quail eggs, but that’s completely different.
    it’s confusing, but both are tasty none the less.

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  • N. Jayme May 9, 2009, 12:55 pm

    Yes, different regions, different names. My mother in law (she was Ilocano) called them cascarone. My mother (Visayan) called them bicho bicho. I’ve seen a different spelling of it as “karioka”, but don’t know which region that is from.

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  • MaryAnne May 26, 2009, 11:50 am

    I know this dessert as Bitsu-bitsu.
    1 box of rice flour
    1 can of coconut milk
    1 jar macapuno
    Mix together, using a smal ice cream scoop (like you do for cookies) carefully drop into hot oil, fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Put 4 on a bamboo skewer and ladel the brown sugar syrup over the ball rotating to cover the entire ball.

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  • bizaare food July 8, 2009, 11:05 pm

    yummy,i reffer to eat this while hot, bcoz when this become cold it’s damn similar to a tire hhahaha, but still mouth waltering snack ^_^

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  • Thankful cook October 6, 2009, 5:47 pm

    Sorry but I think adding the baking soda is a mistake. I tried a few with the baking soda and they actually exploded spraying oil all over my kitchen. Then I tried the recipe without the baking soda and they were fine. Other sites don’t use it. Thanks for the recipe but everyone please be careful and don’t use baking soda in the recipe!

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  • FlipCook November 23, 2009, 11:23 am

    Thank you for “carioca” name (vs. cascaron). I really wanted the carioca recipe. Growing up with Ilocano parents (rest in peace), cascaron was the name for both types of dough ball recipes. Mom taught me many years ago how to make carioca, but of course I didn’t write it down. Now that I’ve found the carioca recipe (http://tagaloglang.com/Filipino-Food/Desserts/recipe-for-filipino-carioca-balls.html) I will try it and give you updates.

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  • Boots Lee February 2, 2010, 4:24 pm

    Tried it today; awful taste of baking soda; threw everything out.
    Other recipes use baking powder, and some don’t use any leavening agent at all.
    Also, the balls become mis-shapen after frying.
    Suggest you don’t add the macapuno; it just gets burned during frying.

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  • Candy February 10, 2010, 6:32 pm

    Ah! my lola used to make this for me. I don’t remember the name though.

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  • PinoyMV March 13, 2010, 7:36 am

    I’ve been trying to find this recipe for years. My late grandmother used to call these cascarone as well and they were my favorite dessert growing up. The recipe has since been passed down to one of my aunties whom I don’t get to see to often. Anyways, thanks for posting, BL. I’ll be making them tonight (along with the Pacman Punch) for my Pacquiao vs Clottey party, so no matter the outcome we’ll have good food! BUT, go Manny!!

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  • Jane January 12, 2011, 10:08 am

    OMG! This is my favorite!!! Thanks so much for posting… Just one question, I tried to do this once and never done it again because when I tried to fry it, it explodes with that freak hot oil splattered to me. Do you know what had happened? Im really scared to do it again (traumatized) LOL! But I would really gonna try your recipe.yumm!

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  • Rosie Soni March 21, 2011, 6:42 pm

    This is not bicho-bicho.
    What you have is cascarone or if threaded into a bamboo skewer it’s called tinudok(Ilocano)or tinusok(Tagalog).
    Bicho-bicho has a ground bean filling that is sweetened and the sticky rice dough is then wrapped around it then rolled into sesame seeds then deep fried.

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  • dolly May 23, 2011, 6:08 am

    carioca!

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  • kelp0op February 10, 2012, 10:59 am

    I would suggest you should post your dish on this site http://www.gourmetrecipe.com to know Filipino delicacies through out the world

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  • jing April 12, 2012, 8:30 pm

    Carioca!! Never heard of cascarone…

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  • lhiza September 8, 2012, 12:44 pm

    In my home town of Bangued Abra Philippines we call this Binuelos..it can be a dessert or snack ( miryenda) as we called it.. You can find this sold on the street or in markets.. They are sometimes on the sticks..Cascaron on the other hand is made similarly but not deep fry.. It is cooked in a very hot sugarcane caramel sugar..they cook sugarcane juice to make a kind of sugar similar to muscavado sugar which is use locally to make sweetened dessert..

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  • Scott December 30, 2012, 9:36 pm

    I tired making this without the baking soda and it exploded in my oil as well. :( one explosion was pretty bad – got burned. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who had this problem. Anyone have a solution? Did I have too much oil>? too hot?

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  • Virginia March 17, 2014, 10:28 pm

    These are called “Karioka” A Filipino dessert or “street food”. My daughter just succeeded in making it. I grew up with this wonderful dessert but it was a mystery as to how it was made. My ninang made it but couldn’t break down the recipe. It was so awesome. So glad for the internet and the many variations of this dessert out there.

    Reply

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