Yield: Makes 6 servings
Snack vendors in Thailand who specialize in sweet sticky rice offer a variety of rices as well as toppings. Besides unadorned, plain sweet sticky rice, there are such choices as wild sticky rice, deep black burgundy in color; sweet sticky rice with corn; green sticky rice colored with pandanus leaves; and kao neuw from Nong Kao, sweet sticky rice with grated fresh coconut and roasted sesame seeds. Toppings include sweetened fresh coconut cream, coconut custard, and a mixture of dried shrimp, sugar, coconut flakes, and shredded kaffir lime leaves - sounds outrageous, but it is really delicious! Serve as an afternoon snack with tea or as a dessert.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the warm sticky rice with the grated coconut. Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch Pyrex pie plate, and place in the steamer basket insert for a pasta pot. Fill the pasta pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Insert the steamer basket insert, cover, and let steam for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the roasted sesame seeds, sugar, and salt. Add the steamed sticky rice mixture, stir well to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it sit for 10 minutes.
To serve, pack the sticky rice into custard cups or ramekins to shape, then invert each onto an individual serving plate. Serve with the mango slices.
While the people from central and southern Thailand eat regular long-grain rice, the northern and northeastern Thais eat another type of long-grain rice, known as kao neuw, or sticky rice. Kao neuw grains adhere to each other and are easily shaped into balls. The Laotians also share this custom.
Sticky rice is chewy and tastes buttery and nutty. Cooked sticky rice is traditionally kept in, and served from, a beautiful bamboo woven basket, where it stays moist and warm for a long time. Because sticky rice is eaten only with the hands, a strict etiquette of washing before a meal is practiced.
To eat, each person takes a handful of sticky rice from the container and breaks off a small amount, kneading it into a ball. This small ball of rice is then dipped into sauce or used to scoop up pieces of vegetable or meat.
Thai people believe that sticky rice makes them mellow. Therefore, it is common to rest after eating sticky rice. One should avoid eating sticky rice and consuming cold liquids at the same time - it is believed that cold liquids will solidify the already sticky rice, making digestion difficult. The people of central Thailand, who seldom eat sticky rice, believe that those who eat sticky rice tend to be lazy!
Cooking Sticky Rice in a Pasta Pot
Makes 4 to 5 servings
Soak the rice in cool water overnight before cooking. Line the steamer basket insert of a pasta pot with fresh corn husks or soaked dried corn husks (used as Mexican tamale wrappers). Spray the corn husks with vegetable oil spray to prevent sticking. Drain the soaked rice and spread it evenly over the husks.
Fill the pot with water to come to just under the steamer basket insert. Put the steamer basket insert into the pot, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Steam the rice for at least 20 minutes, or longer. Transfer the rice to a serving bowl when ready to serve. Cover the rice with some corn husks to keep it moist and warm.
Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.