This is part 2 of a four part series that should have been posted 4 months ago. New job and a month in Thailand has me neglecting my blog. BTW, this is now going to be a 5 part series as I’ve worked out my version of nam jim jaew with tamarind, where as the first version is lime.
This post is about Southeast Asian sticky rice. This should not be confused with Japanese or Korean sticky rice. Those rices use a more traditional rice with a soaking stage that produces a stickier rice rather than fluffy one. Southeast Asian sticky rice is also used in Japan, China and Korea but they call it “sweet rice”, (I think) generally because it’s mainly used for desserts/sweet dishes. In Thailand, particularly in the North and Northeast regions, this is the main staple rice, not jasmine rice, and is served with savory dishes. I will be posting my Thai grilled pork (หมูย่าง) recipe soon. That goes great with sticky rice!
The Thais use it for desserts too. Ever had mango like the picture above? That’s this kind of rice.
This is how to make that sticky rice in a rather non-traditional manner. The traditional manner involves this picture to the right. I actually have one of those things. They work. It’s the classic. It’s also at my Mom’s house in Utah.
Why don’t I have it here? It’s big. It’s funky shaped. My condo isn’t that big. And the only thing it’s good for is making sticky rice. (Unitaskers? Ain’t nobody got time for that, right, Alton?)
If you want to see how to make sticky rice the traditional way, go over to ImportFood.Com and this link right here. Also, ImportFood.Com has all the Thai ingredients, including sticky rice, that you could ever want. My traditional cooker, mentioned above, was purchased from them. They also have a section of videos of Thai street food vendors, cooking up their deliciousness with English narration. Find the video tab at the top. And make some purchases while you’re at it. This is a great company with reasonable prices. I like supporting businesses like this. (No, they did not pay me to say any of these things. I’ve just been a customer for over 10 years and genuinely like them.)
An excellent Thai food blog is SheSimmers.Com. I highly recommend you check it out. It is so much better than mine–though I was happy (proud?) to find our recipes on several Thai dishes are very close. She had a post on how to make sticky rice without the traditional equipment using a splatter guard, a regular saute pan and a stainless steel bowl. It’s brilliant. That method can be found right here.
OK, enough with the plugs. On to my method…
I have an “Aroma Rice Cooker / Food Steamer”, just like above. They include this steamer basket that sits above the rice as it cooks. I haven’t cooked meat in mine, but I have cooked vegetables there from time to time. Now I steam my sticky rice with it. Here’s how you do it.
First you need to buy sticky rice. I’m going to say this again–you cannot make this kind of sticky rice with regular rice!
You need to rinse the rice just like you would for jasmine or other types of rice. What!? You don’t rinse your rice before you cook it? Stop that! Rinse all types of rice 3 to 4 times before cooking. The gets rid of dust, extra starch, rice bran powder leftover from when the hull was removed. Always, always, always rinse your rice.
After rinsing, I put the rice in the main rice cooker part and cover with several inches of cold water. You should let it soak about 8 hours, give or take a couple. Sometimes I’ve let it soak for up to 12 hours with good results. If you do not have 8 hours, there is a cheat. Use the hottest tap water you can and let it soak 3-4 hours. It’s not quite as good that way, but it’s better than no sticky rice. After soaking, drain the rice and put it in a bowl–we’re going to get right back to it.
Next, clean out the rice cooker pot and put in about 3 inches of water. Then put the steamer basket in place. You’ll notice the steamer basket has huge holes where the rice would fall right through. You gotta do something about that. You could use cheesecloth or muslin, but the first time I went to make this, I couldn’t find cheesecloth anywhere. When did Safeway stop carrying cheesecloth? I was considering using a clean kitchen towel but happened to notice my basket-style coffee filters on the counter. Eureka! When I flattened out the filter it fit perfectly into the steamer basket like it was designed to work that way. So down goes the coffee filter, in pours in the rice and I level it out. BTW, you can use cheesecloth. Just cover the basket with the cloth and leave enough to wrap around the entire thing.
Then just close the lid and run a cycle. Mine goes for about 45 minutes which seems to cook it properly. About half way through I use a spatula to flip the rice over. I usually can only get about a quarter of the rice flipped each time and then I level it out again. Close the lid and let it finish steaming. If you use cheesecloth, the flip can be done all at once. If after a cycle the rice is still not done, just run another cycle–but keep checking it. It won’t take 1.5 hours to steam. Check to make sure you haven’t run out of water too. If you have just add more.
That is pretty much it. I usually turn off the cooker and scoop out a portion of the rice and then close the lid to keep it warm and moist. Sticky rice will get cold and hard very quickly, so I usually pull out only 5-10 minutes worth of eating and leave the rest inside. If your batch does become cold, just steam it for 5 minutes or so and it will bring it right back.
Toasted Rice Powder ข้าวคั่ว
Toasted rice powder, khao kua, is an ingredient in several Thai dishes. Most notably, laab (ลาบ), yum nam tok (น้ำตก) and jaew (น้ำจิ้มแจ่ว) dipping sauces (my 1st jaew recipe is here). You can buy it already made in small jars like McCormick spices, but it’s kind of expensive and if you already have sticky rice, it’s easy to make.
Start with a dry pan over medium heat (can be non-stick I guess, but I use my tri-clad) and put as much uncooked rice as you want to make powder. I usually cover the pan. This is more than I would use at one time, but the stuff stores well for several weeks. Then slowly dry roast it, like you might for spices, for the next 10-20 minutes. Keep shaking and pan-flipping every minute or so. Do not let it burn! Once it’s a nice brown color (and fragrant. Kind of reminds me of the smell of popcorn). Take it off the heat and allow to cool. Once cool, simply chuck it into a food processor or a coffee grinder and grind it until it’s little coarser than corn meal. Don’t take it all the way to a fine powder. And that’s it. Easy, easy, easy. Just takes a little time.