Faikakai Malimali, which obviously means: Banana Dumplings with Coconut Syrup

So…I bought this coconut…


After reading all the recipes from Tonga, I thought I needed to buy one. Turns out, what I could find packaged and canned was fine enough. That’s great, but now what do I do with this coconut?

I supposed since I need desiccated (dried) coconut for the banana dumplings, I’d make my own. Since Chicago was pretty much on lockdown tonight due to impending storms, forcing me to give up on yoga for the evening, I figured there was no time like the present to crack this nut, pun intended.

My parents used to buy coconuts as a kid. What for, I have no clue, since the coconut meat itself isn’t all that flavorful. Next time I get mom on the phone I’ll have to ask.  Cracking them is quite a laborious process and since I’ve cracked on by myself, like, never, I found this handy dandy website to take me through the process step by step.  Rather than re-detailing it out for you I’ll provide a quick and dirty using pictures.

coconut milk

Prehead the oven to 350F.  Using a hammer and nail or a drill (seriously), make a hole in the coconut and drain the juice.

Bake the coconut for about 20 minutes.  Wrap the coconut in a towel and beat the hell out of it with a hammer until it cracks. 

cracked coconut

Reduce the oven temp to 250. After peeling the brown part  off of the white part, place in a food processor and grind until fine.

oven coconutBake for 20 min, let cool, and store in an airtight container. That’s that.

Now, for the dumplings.

I couldn’t really find a history or reason behind why this was a popular Tongan dish, but I gather it’s because the recipe is simple and uses local flavors, so I’m going to go with that.

There are three steps to this really: 1) Make the syrup 2) make the dumplings 3) fry the dumplings, so here we go.

Recipe courtesy of He Needs Food

Makes about 9 dumplings


For the syrup:

½ cup sugar

About 2 TB coconut cream

For the dumplings:

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 TB desiccated coconut

1 ripe banana, mashed (about 1/3 cup)

1 TB sugar

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup water

1/3 cup desiccated coconut, extra, to coat

1 TB butter, to coat


For the syrup:

Put the sugar into a small saucepan over low heat and allow it to slowly dissolve. Before it boils add the coconut cream and stir until it is thick. Set aside.

For the dumplings

1.  Bring a large pot of water to the boil.

2.  In the meantime combine the flour, baking powder, 1/3 cup dessicated coconut, banana and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Bring all ingredients together and gradually add the water to form a fairly dry dough.

3.  Using an ice cream or cookie scoop, drop the dough into the pot of simmering water, making sure they don’t stick to the bottom by creating a whirlpool with the water. Gently boil the dumplings for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Drain and set aside.

4.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the extra 1/3 cup coconut and stir until lightly golden. Drop in the dumplings to coat well. Remove carefully and serve with the coconut syrup.


I was all set to do this right, and at the conclusion when I went to link back to the man who needs food, I realized my fatal flaw- the syrup. His recipe is really just a caramel recipe that uses coconut cream rather than heavy cream. I’m not sure why, but I got it in my head to reduce the coconut milk that I had drained as the base of the syrup. Oops. That definitely made it a different beast.

However, dumplings standing alone, they were nothing spectacular. The dough tasted a lot like banana bread dough and so, for kicks, I threw some mini chocolate chips into half of the dumpling batter to try it out. Again, nothing mind blowing. I suspect that, even if I had made the syrup correctly (like I described above), the dish would have been some spectacular coconut caramel with only okay dumplings. I think it has to do with the boiling…a better way to do this would maybe just straight up deep fry the dough, ending up with something akin to banana doughnut holes.  With so many other wonderful desserts that I’ve made thus far, I’m not sure I’d remake this, but I WILL try the syrup correctly next time. Maybe atop some banana bread pudding…


dumplings doneLooks better than it tastes, me thinks.

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6 thoughts on “Faikakai Malimali, which obviously means: Banana Dumplings with Coconut Syrup”

  • my mum makes these all the time since she was young pass down from her mother. She doesn’t use banana or dessicated coconut. She usually cooks the dumpling in coconut juice/water from young coconuts. Then she’s let the dumpling simmer in the sauce for about 5 to 10 minutes.

  • banana dumplings??? Where on the internet did you find your recipes or is this your modified version of our orginal craft? and in that case- biter. You are poking fun at our cultural foods and you look like an idiot doing it because your ignorance is unbelievable! I guess connecting a click away with other countries around the world really does not make a difference if your brain is the size of a pea.

    • As stated above, my recipe source for this is: http://heneedsfood.com/2012/05/faikakai-malimali-banana-dumplings/?pfstyle=wp I did not make it up on my own, and as I stated above, made a few errors in making this myself, starting with the coconut syrup. No where did I state that this was 100% authentic, and as stated in my other comment, I can only make what I do find on the internet, and cross my fingers to trust its authenticity since there is not a whole lot of information out there on this type of food. If you have another recipe that is more authentic, I’d be happy to give it a try to correct my error and set the internet straight. If you have issue with this recipe in particular, I suggest you take it to that author. It was never my intention to insult (and in writing this, it’s more self-deprecating than insulting to another) or offend, so if you read it that way, I apologize.

  • Your technique with the coconut is totally unnecessary. There are three circles on every coconut, and one of them is soft. You can puncture it with any hard object, even your finger! No drill necessary. To open the shell, you tap it with the back of a heavy knife (don’t have to hit hard), following an imaginary line around the circumference of the coconut. After a bit, a crack will form along that line you are following, and eventually it will open. Honestly, opening the coconut doesn’t require force, nor even a lot of skill. I hope that helps the non-Tongans out there 🙂

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