Think Thai desserts and the first thing that pops to mind is sticky rice with mango. Drenched in rich, creamy coconut milk, it has to be one of the simplest indulgent desserts ever. And you don't even have to do anything with the mango. Just pick the best of the season and you have yourself a pretty sweet treat.
July in California is a great time for stone fruits and I was inspired by the abundance of juicy peak-season peaches and nectarines to make this easy dessert with a Southeast Asian flair. News flash: It is extraordinary! You know what I think the secret is? Salt. Yes, we're still talking about a sweet dessert here, but the flavor profile of Southeast Asian food rarely finds itself in a one-dimensional space. What makes this coconut milk sticky rice so delectable is that not-so-shy hint of saltiness that punctuates its full-fat richness.
I learned to make sticky rice or khao niao during a visit to Chiang Mai, an idyllic city in northern Thailand, several years ago. I have very fond memories of the cooking classes I took during my travels in Southeast Asia. They often come with visits to the local market, where I've discovered many unique ingredients and their cultural significance.
In northern Thailand, sticky rice is eaten with hands and served with meats and spicy salads like som tam (papaya salad), and in Laos it is considered a national staple. It is apparently favored as a convenient source of energy for farmers and monks because it takes longer to digest and is highly transportable.
Sticky rice is a glutinous rice variety grown in mainland Southeast Asia. While the starch content in common white rice is made up of two components, amylose and amylopectin, this breed of rice contains mostly amylopectin, which is the reason for its sticky texture. When shopping for sticky rice, note that it goes by many names: glutinous, waxy, and sweet among the popular ones. You should be able to find it at the Asian grocery store.
I was told it is important to soak sticky rice in water for a minimum of four hours and even better overnight. This is to allow the rice to soak up enough water for the cooking process later as no water is added to the rice when it gets steamed. It is also important to wash and rinse the rice several times to get rid of excess starch. These steps are followed to achieve rice grains that remain whole with a chewy texture. And always store sticky rice in a closed container to prevent it from drying out and becoming hard.
We love having coconut milk sticky rice with ripe yellow and white peaches. But let your imagination run free and also try pairing it with other stone fruits like nectarines, plums, apricots, and pluots. Well, maybe berries too. I don't see why not. Aroy!
I like learning a few local words when I travel. Aroy = delicious in Thai. Look out for more Asian recipes made simple in the Easy Summer series. And subscribe to my YouTube channel for step-by-step videos.
Coconut Milk Sticky Rice with Peach
An indulgent Thai dessert to be enjoyed with your favorite summer fruits. Serves 3 to 4.
How to Cook Sticky Rice
Soak 1 cup of uncooked sticky rice in water for at least 4 hours up to overnight. Drain, wash, and rinse the rice until the water is clear, about 2 to 3 rinses. Drain well.
Bring some water in a steam pot to a boil. Spread sticky rice onto a cheesecloth-lined steam basket, cover, and place on top of the pot, making sure that the bottom does not touch the water. Steam the rice over medium heat for about 30 to 45 minutes.
Sticky rice is cooked when it becomes soft and translucent. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest for about 5 minutes. Yields about 2 cups of cooked sticky rice.
1 cup full-fat coconut milk*
4 tablespoons cane sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup steamed sticky rice
2 to 3 peaches, sliced*
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, lightly roasted
Heat coconut milk in a pan over medium heat. Add sugar and salt and stir to combine. Let the mixture reach a low simmer and turn off the heat when the sugar has dissolved. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the coconut sauce and set aside.
Add steamed sticky rice to the remaining coconut sauce in the pan and mix well. Leave for about 10 to 15 minutes to cool and allow the rice to absorb all the liquid. Serve with peach slices, sesame seeds, and top with more coconut sauce as desired.
· For this recipe, I use and recommend Savoy Coconut Cream. The can lists only two ingredients: coconut extracts (70%) and water.
· Besides peaches, this coconut milk sticky rice is also delicious with other summer stone fruits like nectarines, plums, apricots, and pluots.
· Always store sticky rice in a closed container. If it dries out and becomes hard, I find heating it up on a pan with a little water works, but there's a risk of the rice becoming mushy.