On My Low Horse

With a shopping basket in one hand, and a short grocery list in the other, I was skipping (ok, I was walking, but there was a lilt in my step) up and down the aisles of my local Filipino grocery store. As I stopped to mentally check off each item on my list, something squatting on the store floor caught my attention.


Psssst. Hoy!” the object of interest seemed to simultaneously shout and whisper to me.

Normally, whenever the words “Psssst. Hoy!” are shouted/whispered (shoutspered?) at me, I usually duck and cover and/or run as I’ve probably done something wrong. But that’s another story for another time. I digress.

This time however, I couldn’t help but to kneel down and take a closer look at what appeared to be a mini-skateboard with short wooden stumps in place of wheels. Strange, that. Stranger still was that the nose of the board was fitted with a rather nasty-looking serrated spur.



After picking up the menacing looking device, I immediately recalled some childhood memory of my Great Aunt (my grandmother’s sister) using this contraption in the kitchen.

What exactly is this thing, you ask?

It’s a Kabayo, AKA a Coconut Horse, AKA a Filipino Coconut Grater.

Still in the dark? I thought you might be. So I made a video of me riding the Coconut Horse (out of context, that sounds awesome terrible!).

The following video is kinda long (about 9 minutes). But in this video, I explain all of the following:

  • How to open a coconut
  • How to use the kabayo/coconut horse
  • How to make coconut milk
  • How to pick up chicks

Ok, I made that last one up. But what the video may lack in pizazz, it more than makes up for in information. Yeah, totally.

Now that you know what to do with a coconut, here are a couple of coconut recipes:

Ulang Sa Gata (Shrimp Cooked in Coconut Milk)

Palitaw (Sweet Rice Cakes with Shredded Coconut Topping)


Palitaw is a very quick and easy to prepare Filipino snack. All you have to do is make a dough from rice flour and water, form the dough into disks, boil the disks, then coat the disks in a mixture of sugar, sesame seeds, and freshly shredded coconut. Palitaw taste as delicious as they are easy to make.

Makes 15-18 rice cakes

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups rice flour
1 1/2 cups water

Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir seeds continuously until they become golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately remove seeds from pan and place in a medium bowl. Allow seeds to cool to room temperature, then add the sugar and shredded coconut. Stir to combine.

Mix the rice flour and water in a large bowl until a sticky dough ball is formed. The dough should not be dry or crumbly. Depending on the humidity in your kitchen, you may need more or less water.

Taking about a tablespoon of dough at a time, form the dough into small spheres, then flatten the spheres into 1/4-inch thick disks. Place the disks on a lightly floured surface to prevent sticking.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, reduce heat to low, and allow water to simmer. Gently place a few disks into the simmering water at a time (work in batches). When the disks float to the top of the water, remove them with a slotted spoon or skimmer, then drain the disks on paper towels.

Dredge the rice cakes in the coconut mixture, then place them on a wire rack to cool slightly. Any leftover coconut mixture can be sprinkled on top of the rice cakes or served on the side.


  • Mila January 20, 2009, 4:42 am

    A childhood favorite of mine, especially on rainy days (hmm I wonder why all my favorite foods have a link to rainy days?), plus it’s so fun to make a mess with the sugar, sesame seeds and coconut.
    Looks like you have a Beatles moptop in the video!

  • elle311 January 20, 2009, 6:17 am

    Hi Marvin!
    I remember my Grandmother sitting on the coconut horse! I tried it a few times myself and the end was really sharp. What we made with the coconut and milk escapes me. I wonder if it is still buried in the recesses of my Mother’s pantry…The video was informative and funny too 😉
    Happy New Year! Looking forward to reading your future posts.

  • Joelen January 20, 2009, 6:29 am

    Looks delicious and great video!

  • veron January 20, 2009, 7:33 am

    Hmmn…I love palitaw…and what an informative video!

  • Wandering Chopsticks January 20, 2009, 9:40 am

    Bravo! That was such an informative video. That must have taken a lot of work to put together.
    When I was little, my mom used to make candied coconut for the lunar new year. That was the only time I saw her open a fresh coconut. I just remember eating the candy, not what she did with the milk or if she strained it or what.

  • Manggy January 20, 2009, 10:31 am

    Omigosh Marvin, not even I have made palitaw before (not that I needed to, hehe!). VERY well done. And you know, you COULD have changed for the video. There’s no limited time in which to do things, but hey, the ladies got their crotch shot. Ha ha ha. New presidency, new hair, huh? I kinda like it! (I wonder what wifey thinks.)
    You know how to do Arnis? That’s amazing! I only fight in virtual worlds :)

  • Efren January 20, 2009, 11:03 am

    Wow–in my family, the grating of the coconut was usually done by women, not men–though my mom made me do the coconut grating. Which probably explains a lot. LOL.
    Seriously though, I knew palitaw was pretty easy to make, so I’m going to have to try this when I have a craving for coconut. I’m one of those rare Filipinos who aren’t too crazy about coconut or banana.

  • paoix January 20, 2009, 12:11 pm

    hey! good job on the vids! keep it coming. can you ship me a kabayo? they dont have those in the filipino stores around here. pretty please :)

  • Jo January 20, 2009, 12:12 pm

    Oh my, I remember that evil, almost S&M-ish, contraption at our house in Umingan. My Inang made the best palitaw. Thank you for brining back some old memories. =)

  • darlene January 20, 2009, 12:24 pm

    I mean this in the nicest way: watching you on that coconut horse was priceless! Being in such a modern kitchen made it look surreal. You did a good job of keeping a straight face :-)
    Out of convenience, I think I’ll stick to the blender method. 😉

  • Jikuu January 20, 2009, 12:32 pm

    What happened to your proclaimed man-crush on Alton Brown? Although I can understand if you lost it due to his new, lame hairstyle. His alternative method of extracting coconut water via drill deserves attention, although I can see how the rest of his procedure deviates with the baking of the coconuts. (See Coconut Cake Revival, Season 11 Episode 3, for reference)
    And I was rather surprised to see you all formal and whatnot for your video, but your text additions put me at ease. I appreciate your foray into the kabayo. I had such a hard time conveying this strange device to my husband, not originally having a name for it. The post said it all. Thanks!

  • Ed January 20, 2009, 12:36 pm

    I tried to do this once, but my father was rather annoyed by my slow pace and reluctance (I mean, serrated edges and I do not get along). He said that it would be midnight before I had thoroughly grated that one coconut!

  • Dee January 20, 2009, 1:55 pm

    Aw man, this used to be my job when I was a wee youngun. Never knew it was called a kabayo (then again, my knowledge of Tagalog mainly consists of food words, profanity, and the numbers 1-10 which you’ll note doesn’t include zero. What is the word for zero, anyway?). I’m sure my parents still have that thing stashed in their garage.
    Love the instructional video – yee haw!

  • elmomonster January 20, 2009, 4:23 pm

    Dude. This is awesome. You’ve taken what you do here to the next logical level. Your video was funny, informative, perfectly presented. You are the Pinoy Alton Brown!

  • Cristina January 20, 2009, 5:52 pm

    This is so awesome. The coconut horse brings back memories of child labor (I was the child) grating coconuts for our town fiesta. But thanks for the palitaw I so love it. I’ll look around your site later for puto bumbong (yeah more purple stuff), I hope you have it here. Thanks!

  • NJ Julie January 20, 2009, 6:50 pm

    OMG I haven’t seen one of this in ages!! Brought back childhood memories. Thanks!

  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js January 20, 2009, 8:12 pm

    Thanks for bringing back memories. I think we did have one of these kabayos. Wow, kayod na ng niyog!

  • Beth January 20, 2009, 9:18 pm

    That is an awesome tool. I would love to have one to make fresh gata!

  • Caroline January 20, 2009, 9:48 pm

    Cool post, esp the video, too funny (thwack). And I remember those kabayos growing up. I’m glad they’re still around after all these years, I’m gonna have to get one.

  • caninecologne January 20, 2009, 9:50 pm

    hi marvin –
    my parents have one of those. in fact, my mom still breaks out with it during those rare occasions that she makes palitao. she doesn’t buy grated coconut – she grates the damn things herself and she’s in her late 60’s. i never those grating stools were called ‘kabayos’.
    i love palitaw – it’s pretty easy to make too but my only deterrent is the coconut grating part (i’m lazy).
    once i took a photo of a couple of those stools stacked on top of each other at a local seafood city (Filipino supermarket in san diego) – they looked so cute, like crudely hewn little wooden animals humping each other.
    loved this post – brought back childhood memories… :)

  • Lorena January 20, 2009, 10:24 pm

    That had to be one of the most entertaining, yet educational, videos I’ve seen in a long time. Nice job (and this comes from someone who works with multimedia)! But now I have a craving for coconut. 😛

  • Eat. Travel. Eat! January 20, 2009, 11:32 pm

    This is such a great video! Entertaining, funny, and very informative (and I learned a lot of new material!). Great examples and editing. I applaud you for your great skill.

  • Julie January 21, 2009, 7:43 am

    Love it!!! We had one, too, and my dad upholstered it so it would be more comfy to sit on. I was responsible for all the grating. Man–good memories (better memories now that I don’t have to do all that work anymore!).

  • QGirl January 21, 2009, 10:52 am

    Delurking to say that I really enjoy your blog. The video was excellent, and very informative (even funny!) Your kitchen is gorgeous, btw.
    I love coconut so I will have to one day try making something from fresh a coconut, expecially now that I know how. Thanks!

  • sara January 21, 2009, 5:33 pm

    man, that’s straight up old school. my lolo still shreds coconut with that thing to this day. his ass 90+.

  • B January 22, 2009, 12:56 am

    Posting about the kabayo on the same day
    Collective coconut conscious woooo

  • Joelen January 22, 2009, 5:51 am

    Thanks for being a refreshing blog and providing such an enjoyable blog to read! As a result, I’ve nominated you for an award! You can view it here:

  • greasemonkey January 22, 2009, 6:06 am

    that’s how you use your coconut! lol
    you rawk!! long lost, we even look alike! lol!
    the coconut grater is just another example of how pinoy kids are hoodwinked into doing chores when they think they’re playing!
    you know they re-purpose old electric fans into motorized electric coconut graters these days? to make really thick kakang gata, don’t add water (even coconut milk, which should instead be mixed with some white rhum and ice) just squeeze it dry (drier). they actually use modified clamps in the markets to squeeze the pulp easily (yes, some degree of mechanization at last). for the second pressing, you’ll want to soak the pulp in hot water and let it cool first. after getting coconut milk, the pulp’s pretty much just mulch. just use a fresh batch mixed with some sugar to serve with your palitaw, suman, or whatever.

  • oggi January 22, 2009, 8:00 am

    You are awesome Marvin!

  • Tuty January 22, 2009, 11:23 am

    Nicely done video, Marv. This proves that you aren’t lazy… :-)

  • roland January 22, 2009, 12:23 pm

    coconut horse was a “game” i played as a youngster and also the bunot — or the manual floor polisher game…

  • Bee January 22, 2009, 11:02 pm

    My late grandma had one of this, well, look very similar with a neck and all that, a Nyonya coconut horse. I loved riding on it, as a back passenger when my late grandma or my aunt were working on it. So much fun.

  • ahnjel January 22, 2009, 11:10 pm

    marvin the next food network star… maybe theyll give you AB’s job!
    ohhh wow! palitaw! i love that rice desert, brings back memories when my great aunt used to make once a month. yummy!
    you can actually squeeze out coconut milk 3 times (by adding water with the last 2).
    im from bicol so gata is actually a big part of my food life, there are a lot of veggies you can cook with gata. ie; kabocha, string beans, young langka, taro, cassava leaves, shark, fish, mussels, etc…
    goodluck on your kabayo!

  • Katrina January 23, 2009, 5:01 am

    That’s a terrific video, Marvin! Seriously, it’s both informative and entertaining. And you’re actually getting quite comfortable and natural on cam. You been practicing in front of a mirror? ;-D The part where you thwack the coconut’s very cool. I had no idea a stick could crack that open. (Why do you have an arnis stick, anyway?)
    By the way, the device is also called a “kayuran” or “kudkuran.” “Kayod” or “kudkod” mean to scrape or grate. Claude Tayag has a collection of kabayos/kayurans/kudkurans in Bale Dutung, his home/resto in Pampanga. See pictures here:

  • Burnt Lumpia January 23, 2009, 1:41 pm

    Hi Mila! Yes, I’ve been growing my hair out since you last saw me.
    Hey elle. Yes, the blade is sharp, so one has to be careful working with it. Thanks for reading;)
    Thanks Joelen!
    Thanks veron! I’m glad you liked the vid.
    It did take a bit of time, WC, which is one reason why I rarely do videos. Another reason being I’m a complete dork.
    Hey manggy. The wife is just kind of “eh” about my hair. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that likes it. And yes, I have a few years of arnis training, but it’s been a while since I’ve actually practiced consistently.
    Haha, Efren;) I guess only women did the grating in my family too, though I don’t mind doing it now:).
    Hi Paoix. I’m not sure about the logistics of shipping bladed objects across state lines;)
    You’re welcome, Jo!
    Hi darlene! I’m glad you got a kick out of me on the horse. And yes, the blender method is a whole lot easier;)
    Oh no, jikuuu, my man-crush on Alton is still very much intact;) And besides, the both of us have new ridiculous hairdos. And I know the exact episode that you are talking about, I just think drilling and baking the coconut like AB did would take too much time. Brute force is much quicker!
    Hi Ed! It took me a good amount of time to just grate that one piece of coconut, so you’re not alone in your coconut grating slowness;)
    My tagalog is much worse than yours, Dee! I don’t even know how to count to 10!
    Thanks elmo! Though I’m no where near being the “pinoy AB”;)
    Sorry Cristina, I don’t have a puto bumbong recipe. Hopefully I can get around to making it soon though.
    You’re welcome NJ Julie!
    Thanks js! It’s cool seeing that many other people have memories of this contraption.
    Thanks Beth. Take a look in your local Filipino market to find a kabayo.
    Hi Caroline. I was a bit surprised too to see that they were in my filipino market.
    Thanks caninecologne. You could still make palitaw with store bought shredded coconut. It’s not as fresh, but still pretty tasty.
    Thanks very much Lorena. I’m glad you weren’t bored out of your mind watching it.
    Thanks for visiting my blog Eat Travel Eat.
    Julie, that’s the bestest idea ever! I should pimp out my own kabayo and stick a cushion on that thing. More cushion for the pushin’ I say!
    Hi there QGirl! I appreciate you delurking and I’m glad you enjoy the blog!
    Hi sara. You’re Lolo is a God among men! ;P
    Thanks B. Your posts on the Itak on kabayo are very cool.
    Wow, thanks very much for the award Joelen! I’m very flattered.
    Hey greasemonkey. Being hoodwinked into doing chores is one of the great Pinoy skills!
    Thanks oggi!
    Thanks tuty. But I’m still pretty lazy in other areas of life;)
    Hi roland. I was a frequent player of the “who can get the most dust off of this table” game.
    Hi Bee. You are lucky that your grandma gave you a ride, rather than making you drive and grate;)
    Thanks ahnjel. I will definitely trust a bicolano about coconut advice. Next time I’ll get more squeezings out of my coconut.
    Thanks Katrina. I’m glad you liked it. And no, I haven’t been practicing in front of a mirror, though that’s not a bad idea! And I have some training in Arnis, which is why I have the stick, and many other sticks;) And thanks for the links. Claude’s collection is beautiful, they look like they are carved. And I spotted you and the rest of the girls in some of those photos;)

  • Lori Lynn @ Taste With The Eyes January 23, 2009, 8:10 pm

    Never dull, Marvin, never dull.
    Nice to learn about a piece of cooking equipment that had not ever crossed my path, as always,

  • White On Rice Couple January 23, 2009, 9:15 pm

    OK, we’re totally on this and want a ride on that! giddy-up!
    Great, great, great video Marvin! We were totally HOOKED. Todds gonna get his Aikido bokken to thwack and I’m still looking for someones forehead to open it with. Thanks for the marvelous idea! Any volunteer forheads here?

  • Katrina January 24, 2009, 2:38 am

    They teach arnis in the U.S.?! Cool! :-) Does anyone who ISN’T Filipino study it?

  • greasemonkey January 24, 2009, 5:55 am

    they featured arnis/eskrima on fight quest, a nat geo or discovery docu. hehe, the ‘shifu’ even brought the host to luneta park and made him eat balut.
    to add to ahnjel’s list: ginataang santol (not sure what santol is in english though…)!

  • Burnt Lumpia January 24, 2009, 9:17 am

    Thanks LoriLynn. I’m pretty sure the kabayo hasn’t cross many other people’s paths;)
    Hi Diane. I’m sure Todd would demolish any and all coconuts with his aikido skillz!
    You’d be surprised how popular arnis is here, katrina. In general here in the states, it’s more commonly known as “Kali” or “FMA (Filipino Martial Arts)” rather than arnis. And I’d actually say there are more non filipinos studying it here in California than actual filipinos.
    Yes, I did see that fight quest episode, greasemonkey. Nat Geo also had another special focused on FMA, though I forgot what the show was called.

  • bernadette January 25, 2009, 4:13 am

    i just had time to finish your cool video, marvin! Hats off to you for showing us true-blue pinoys how to get the “kakang gata” out :-). My german husband has mastered it too and can advise re coconut milk-ing. We use the fresh gata as milk for chocolate and cocoa drinks as well. Freeze it in ice cube trays and just plop it in the hot toddy before you drink it!

  • leah January 25, 2009, 8:41 am

    i was the resident coconut shaver – on a kabayo – when my lola and titas would cook palitaw, pilipit and other desserts. they had no problems passing an otherwise ackward, potentially back-pain inducing chore to someone younger, shorter and more agile. i remember thinking it was so fun! great vid! very nostalgic.

  • Michelle Robinson January 25, 2009, 9:34 am

    Errrr..Marvin, if you don’t mind asking your Filipino store whether they ship those puppies to Canada? I only need the serrated edge, thank you very much as I don’t need the whole “kabayo”, I think I can fabricate my very own Canadian version. Thanks!!!

  • Andrea January 25, 2009, 11:24 pm

    It was a surprise to see this on your site, I immediately recognized it but not because I’m Filipino. My mother had one of these in the other part of the world, in Guyana south america. It’s funny what goes from culture to culture.

  • Tangled Noodle January 26, 2009, 8:51 pm

    There was no way I’d find one of these here in MN so I picked up TWO blades while in PI last month. I bought a cheap little stool/bench at Michael’s crafts and now just need to put it together to start grating! Thanks for the vid tutorial!

  • Burnt Lumpia January 28, 2009, 9:11 am

    Thanks Bernadette. If anyone knows what to do with a coconut, it would be you;)
    Hi Leah. It’s good that you still feel nostalgic about those memories;)
    Hi Michelle. I actually did ask, but they only sell the whole horse, not the blade. And I don’t think they ship either.
    Great cultures think alike, Andrea!
    No prob, Tangled Noodle. Very cool that you’re making your own kabayo!

  • Pat January 28, 2009, 10:58 am

    That’s a nasty looking device! Love the video :).

  • _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver January 29, 2009, 6:37 pm

    Whoa, that kabayo is PUNY! When I saw the picture, I thought it was “normal” bench-sized. Then I saw the video and saw that tiny thing — so I assumed that I was mistaken in thinking that one actually sat on it. I thought perhaps it was a countertop device. But nooooo.
    How tall are you? =D I’m short but I think I would also have a hard time fitting on the kabayo.

  • manju February 6, 2009, 2:18 am

    I just found a solid wood bench to put together with the blade I’ve been carrying around for 9 years to make my own kabayo (thanks, I didn’t know the word for that). I’ve always wanted to have fresh grated coconut around like in the old days. Great tutorial…you look kinda professorial!

  • rlf February 8, 2009, 9:31 am

    Hi, thanks for posting the picture of your coconut grater, now i can show our friend how to make the small bench for my coco grater… look how i manage to use my grater blade that i brought from the Philippines long time ago http://rellysculinarynomad.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_archive.html .
    I ask him to make me a proper bench but he cannot imagine how it look. Really thank you, thank you

  • Burnt Lumpia February 9, 2009, 11:20 am

    Thanks Pat. It can indeed be nasty if you’re not careful;)
    Hi TS. I’m about 5-11. And I also tried using that thing on the counter, but you really do need to sit on it to weigh it down.
    Thanks manju. It seems that quite a few people have just the blade. I wish I could’ve found one of those and made my own bench too.
    Thanks rlf. Your homemade bench looks awesome!

  • Maggie February 14, 2009, 4:39 pm

    The cakes look delicious! My Jamaican neighbor had a very similar scraper but not on a horse/bench but just on a stick. I loved watching him scrape coconuts with it when I was a kid.

  • Chowhound April 9, 2009, 10:32 pm

    Your palitaw made me miss my grandma so much. She always made this for us as a snack when we come over for a visit. She makes it seem so easy to make but everything is done manually like pounding the glutinous rice to turn it into powder and yeah, grating the coconut using a manual kayuran like what you have in the picture. Great blog by the way, thanks for sharing.

  • Jen April 26, 2009, 10:11 am

    It really did brought back some childhood memories..Now I’m wondering whatever happened to our “coconut horse”..Last time I did coconut grating was when I was in 6th grade =)

  • Paulette B June 23, 2009, 9:29 pm

    I thought the coconut horse was a figment of my childhood imagination. My parents had it and I remember they would carefully wrap the blade in between gratings and I would be drawn to ride the coconut horse. Thank you for validating my childhood memory. Where do you buy these things?

  • Gourmet Mama July 5, 2009, 7:46 pm

    You’ve got an interesting blog. And I like reading the posts you put up. Well wow a coconut horse. Who would have thought? It looks especially mean-looking too.

  • rmb January 15, 2011, 5:32 am

    it brings back memories of my youth days
    That was my job grating a coconut thru kabayo whenever my mom prepares a biko.

  • Chito August 2, 2011, 8:10 am

    I toss the dough in the microwave for about 40 secs. which binds the dough and makes it easier to make the patties. Also, if you’re not allergic to peanuts, you can add finely chopped peanuts and crush the sesame seeds slightly to really bring some flavor to the palitaw.

  • plb March 13, 2012, 8:43 pm

    HELLO.. pls is the rice four.. reg. rice flour or sweet rice (gluteneous) flour. thanks


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