Mango sticky rice

Poor me, I have three ripe mangoes that need to be eaten very soon. What am I going to do?

Well, this is a fabulous excuse to prepare coconut sticky rice pudding. In Thailand, glutinous rice is grown specially in order to give it this sticky texture, and the grains come out an opaque white. While you can buy dry sticky rice here, I decided to see how things would turn out with the regular rice I had in my kitchen, prepared Thai style. (Regarding the photo: Green and white sticky rice being served with mango at the vegetarian festival in Phucket Town. Those yellow things are mangoes, not potatoes. I don’t recall the different rice colors having different flavors.)

As I learned in Chiang Mai, the rice is first soaked overnight, and then steamed in, go figure, a rice steamer, which looks like an inverted, pointy straw hat. You put the rice in the basket, stick the basket in a pot and cover it with a lid, and let the rice steam for 30 minutes.

As an alternative, I put my soaked rice in my metal vegetable steamer, and surprisingly, very few grains fell through. One of those bamboo dim sum baskets would probably be perfect for the task, but I don’t have one. I put the steamer in a pot, with about an inch of water on the bottom, covered it, and let it simmer on a low flame for 30 minutes. In the end, the bottom layer had cooked a little more thoroughly than the top, so I stirred the rice and let it steam for another 15 minutes. So that’s the trick — you have to stir the rice in the middle.

I find that while in Thailand they use fresh coconut milk, canned coconut cream — not milk — produces a better taste. We topped our mango rice with mint, which looks nice and adds a nice flavor. The following quantities make enough for about four servings.

1 cup rice
1 cup coconut cream
4 T sugar
1 t salt
1-2 mangoes
mint leaves for topping (optional)

Soak the rice overnight, dump out the water and then steam as described above, on a low flame for 30-40 minutes, until the rice is chewy. Remember to stir the rice once or twice during the cooking process. (In the photo: Mango sticky rice served in Chiang Mai.)

Heat the coconut milk with the sugar and salt (yes, salt) on a stovetop or in the microwave. Once it has boiled, add the rice and stir. I microwaved the dish for another minute at this point. You then have to let the rice sit to absorb the coconut milk. After 15 minutes the dish had the consistency of a thick soup, and was quite good, but when left for a full hour, most of the coconut milk had been absorbed and it more resembled the snack we got for 2-3 shekels (!!) at all the Thai roadside stands.

Meanwhile, slice the mangoes — if you’ve never sliced a mango, you should know it has a large, flat pit in the center. You can tell where the pit runs based on the slight ridge on the outside. Make two slices across both sides of where you think the pit should be — it’s about a centimeter or two thick — and then slice off the peels from the meat.

Serve the rice topped with the mango, with mint as a garnish. Other serving suggestions: Top the rice with banana, pineapple, melon or another fruit of your choosing.

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