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Mango with Sticky Rice

October 25, 2011

Mangos are one of my absolute favorite fruits of all time (along with bananas and mangosteen).  To me, the perfect mango is one that isn’t overly ripe and mushy and juicy when you peel it, but also not one that is underripe and still green.  I like a nice firm, and fragrant mango that is moist in my mouth and bursting with that sugary sweet flavor.  With the right kind of mango, I could eat one every day.  I love them that much.

Naturally, since I also love dessert, any dessert that can somehow incorporate mango into has got to be good.  That’s where mango with sticky rice comes in.  You can’t be Thai and not grow up with this dessert, it’s one of the most well-known and popular Thai desserts that exist.  I absolutely love it, it’s just too bad that it’s hard and time consuming to make, and frankly, good mangos just aren’t available all year long.

This dish is made with exactly the ingredients that are in its name: mango, which is called mah muang in Thai and sticky rice, which is called khaw neow.  Put that together and mang with sticky rice is known as khaw neow mah muang.

The dish starts off with what is known as glutinous rice, or sticky rice.  This is a very traditional short-grain Asian rice that is consumed in much of Southeast Asia.  This particular variety of rice is called sticky rice because it becomes especially sticky when cooked due to a higher-than-average content of starch in the rice.  In order to make the rice for this dish, you’ve got to turn it into coconut sticky rice.  Start with glutinous rice and let it soak for at least an hour before cooking.  After soaking, you will need to steam the rice in a rice steamer, or using a regular steamer with cheesecloth at the bottom to cover the holes, for about 20 minutes.  In the meantime, in a saucepan over low heat, combine coconut milk a dash of salt and sugar together and simmer, but don’t let it boil or else the coconut milk will curdle.  Once the rice has finished steaming, spread it out in a bowl, pour some of the coconut milk mixture over the rice and start mixing the rice and coconut milk together.  The idea isn’t to make coconut milk soup.  You only want to add enough coconut milk so that it gets absorbed by the rice and keeps the rice moist.  When you’ve reached the saturation point, cover the rice in the bowl for about 10 minutes to let it cool and absorb the flavors of the coconut milk.  In the meantime, peel a ripe mango and slice sections of it so that it is edible with a fork.  Plate the coconut milk sticky rice onto a plate, arrange the mango slices around it, and top the rice with the remaining coconut milk mixture that wasn’t mixed in with the rice.  You can also top the dish with toasted sesame seeds to add a bit of crunch and color and texture to your dish.

If mangos are in season, you are guaranteed to find this dessert dish listed on the menu of any Thai restaurant from California to Thailand.  When I was recently in Bangkok, I ordered mango with sticky rice at Jim Thompson’s Cafe at Saladaeng.  They even dressed up the dish with an orchid!  The coconut milk sticky rice was so creamy and rich and the mango was perfectly ripe and sweet.

When my husband and I go to one of our favorite Thai restaurants in San Clemente, CA, we also order the mango with sticky rice.  You can see in the above picture that at Mongkut Thai, they just serve their mangos with coconut milk sticky rice without the coconut milk sauce served on top.  But that doesn’t mean this dish isn’t just as good.

I only wish I knew how to make this dessert.  The directions sound simple enough, but trying to get the sticky rice and coconut milk to the right consistency is tough.  I’ve watched my mom try to make it a few times, and I’ve decided it’s just easier to order it at a restaurant!

Stick with mango with sticky rice for dessert at any Thai restaurant and you’ll never be sorry.

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