(Slideshow updated with additional photos.) Mont lone yei baw — loosely, "rice balls floating in water" — seldom surface except during Thingyan, the water festival that marks the Burmese New Year.
They're labor-intensive to prepare, except for special occasions, though preparing them as a group is part of the communal fun. At the station where this bowlful was prepared, one woman employed a nutcracker to break up large nuggets of jaggery, unrefined brown palm sugar, into pea-sized tidbits. A second woman pressed them into small wads of glutinous rice-flour dough, folded them shut, and rolled them between her palms into their final shape. A fellow set them into a cauldron of boiling water and then, once they floated to the top, shocked them in a small pot of cold water so the cooked dumplings wouldn't stick together. Another woman, who dressed the filled bowls with grated coconut, filled in along the assembly line as needed.
There's a tradition, a Burmese friend warned me with a smile, of jokesters who replace the jaggery with bird's eye chilies. Luckily, neither I nor my dining buddies, who brought their own toothpicks to this tiny bowl, got pranked.
This annual celebration is organized by the Light of Dhamma Buddhist Association (LDBA) for the benefit of Visoddaryon Dhamma Ramsi Vihara, a local Burmese Buddhist monastery. For more photos from multiple years of the festival, see the slideshow.
LDBA Thingyan Festival
I.S.5 (The Walter H. Crowley Intermediate School), 50-40 Jacobus St. (51st Ave.-Queens Blvd.), Elmhurst, Queens
(The 2015 festival was held on April 12)