Thai Mango and Sticky Rice

In March, just before we all went into lockdown, this pirate spent two weeks in northern Thailand eating her fill of delicious khao soi, som tam and khao niao mamuang every day.  Grateful to make it home before borders were closed, she nonetheless went into Thai food withdrawal, and the first dish she was compelled to recreate–when a pile of beautiful, ripe mangos met her at the door of her local grocery–was the khao niao, or Thai sticky rice with mango.  I’ll work on the curried noodles next, but not sure where I’ll get the particular green papayas they use for som tam…not everything is available on Amazon!

I’ll ask up front that you forgive the photo quality from down in the galley … this is what it looked like right before I went below to use steam pressure and sharp knives.  A beautiful sail, but a bit rough below decks!

Khao Niao Mamuang

Jump to Recipe

1 cup Thai sweet sticky rice
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
Sea salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2-3 mangoes
Toasted sesame seeds

Other than good mangoes, the key to being able to make this dish is getting your hands on Thai sweet rice or sticky rice.  Short grained and really glutinous (though without gluten, interestingly) it cooks up VERY sticky, but also heavier and chewier than sushi rice.  It’s that chewiness that makes this dish so satisfying.  I honestly don’t know that I would bother trying this dish with any other rice, but you might use jasmine — great flavor, but the whole thing will just go down differently.  Well worth getting your hands on some of this and Amazon’s got it.  Any brand you buy will almost certainly be a product of Thailand or maybe Laos and have the squiggly writing to give it away.  In a large bowl or container, cover the rice with water a few inches deep and let it stand at room temperature for anywhere from an hour to overnight.

The other secret to sticky rice is steaming it rather than boiling. Drain it and put it in a steamer — I’m using my pressure cooker to cut back on time and water a bit. In the pressure cooker, it took about 10 minutes on high pressure.  With a regular steamer, bring the water to a boil, cover, and cook until tender, which will take about 20 minutes.

I wasn’t kidding about this all being on a serious heel — that’s my knee bracing me between the companionway and well-gimballed stove to have my hands free to take a picture.  Mix the coconut milk well in the can to get  the fat evenly distributed, then put half of it in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Whisk in about 1/4 cup of the sugar and a big pinch of salt to dissolve. The salty-sweet flavor is key to this dish.

Lift the rice out of the steamer — you can see here how sticky it is — and scrape into a large bowl.  Pour the warm coconut milk over it, stir to mix through and let it stand until all the liquid is absorbed which should take about 20 minutes, but you can let it sit for a couple of hours while you help with a tack to get on a gentler reach!

When you’re ready to serve, heat the rest of the coconut milk to a simmer and use a few spoonfuls to make a slurry with the cornstarch, then whisk that into the coconut milk with the remaining sugar and another big pinch of salt.  Simmer for a few minutes until thickened.

Peel and slice your mangoes and arrange on a platter or individual plates with the sticky rice, then pour the coconut cream over the top and sprinkle with lots of toasted sesame seeds.

Now that you’re on a gentle reach, grab a couple of forks and enjoy!  Sawadee ka, pirates.


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