One of the pleasures of home cooking is discovering that favorite, longed-for foods are not so out of reach, after all. Mango and sticky rice is one of these favorite foods — a dessert treat I would order whenever I could in Thai restaurants. But more often than not, it was unavailable. It wasn't the mango season, they would explain, or they didn't care to make such a common, homestyle dish. I craved it, but rarely ate it. Then I realized that I was being very, very silly. Surely this wasn't too difficult to make at home? Believe me, it is not. Here's how to make sweet coconut sticky rice in your own kitchen.
Here are step-by-step instructions for this very simple dessert. It just happens to be vegan and gluten-free, too! It's so delicious, all that warm, sticky, sweet and slightly salty rice, drenched in coconut milk, and eaten spoonful by spoonful with fragrant mango. And it all only takes 20 minutes or so — if you don't count the time you need to soak the rice.
This recipe will make between 2 and 4 servings.
What You Need
1 cup Thai sweet or sticky rice, available in Asian groceries
1 can coconut milk, unshaken
3 tablespoons raw or white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch (or tapioca flour, available in Asian groceries or in gluten-free section)
2 ripe mangos
Toasted sesame seeds and mint, to garnish
1. Gather your ingredients. The sticky rice is the most important thing here; you cannot use regular rice. Here's a photo of the sticky rice I use; it comes in 5-pound bags at the Asian grocery. The grains themselves are small, quite plump, and very white.
2. Soak 1 cup of dry sticky rice in water for about 1 hour. (Some recipes instruct you to soak it overnight, but 1 hour seems sufficient.)
3. Drain the rice and rinse it thoroughly. Then pour about 1 cup of water into a saucepan, and place the rice in a steamer insert inside the saucepan. Cover tightly and steam over low to medium heat for 20 minutes.
4. While the rice is steaming, make the first sauce. You will make two coconut sauces to go on the rice: One thin one to mix into the rice itself, and then a thicker sauce to spoon over top. Start by opening the can of coconut milk and spooning out the thick cream on top.
Place the thicker coconut cream in a small bowl. You should have approximately 1/2 cup, give or take a bit. (All measurements here are approximate, which is completely fine for this recipe.)
5. Pour the thinner, lighter coconut milk left in the can into a small saucepan. (It will be a little over 1 cup.) Stir in 2 tablespoons sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Do not let the sauce boil.
6. By now the rice is probably done. The grains should be tender and shiny. Spoon the rice out into a bowl (it will be clumpy).
7. Slowly pour the warm coconut milk over the rice in the bowl, stirring frequently. You want the milk to coat the rice but not leave puddles. Keep stirring, and stop pouring in coconut milk when it looks like the rice is saturated. You may not use all of the milk.
8. Set the rice aside to finish absorbing the coconut milk; after 15 minutes or so it should have soaked up any milk that is still liquid.
9. While the rice is standing, make the coconut topping sauce. Rinse out the coconut milk saucepan, and pour in the coconut cream that you took off the top of the can. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together a few teaspoons of water and the cornstarch.
10. Whisk this cornstarch slurry into the coconut cream and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens considerably. Set aside.
11. To cut up the mango, first cut off the bottom so it can stand upright.
12. Slice away the skin in thin strips, until the mango is completely peeled.
13. Cut off the flesh in slices, starting with the broad cheeks on each side, then the thinner strips that will come off either side.
14. To serve, place about 1/3 cup cooked sticky rice on each plate, and arrange mango slices around it. Drizzle with the coconut topping sauce, and sprinkle with a few toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with a mint sprig, and eat while still warm.
• Thank you to Real Thai Recipes and About.com for the initial instructions and help in learning this recipe.
(Images: Faith Durand)