How to make Sticky Rice/Glutinous Rice/Khao Niao

More from Coco’s Lao Kitchen!

Sticky Rice is an essential component of the Lao diet.  It’s actually a different variety or rice and must be cooked in a different way than regular rice.  Usually in a Lao home there will be a large basket full of sticky rice at any moment.  The rice will be put to soak the night before, and then in the morning somebody (usually the wife.. or one of the daughters) will steam it.  Lao people are convinced sticky rice tastes better if steamed over a charcoal fire.  After the rice has been steamed and cooled a little, it is then put into the basket, or baskets.  Most Lao people take a basket of rice like this with them for lunch when they leave the house in the morning, whether they are going to the rice paddy or to take care of the buffalo, or to the office.  The rice stays fresh in the basket all day, and if there is some left over, you can re-steam it for a few minutes the following morning to freshen it up.

Lao people have a lot of sayings about sticky rice.  They say it makes you stick to the ground, that’s why Lao people are short.  They also say it makes you fat, and so you shouldn’t eat it at night.  Sticky rice is really filling, and keeps you feeling full all day.  I’m not sure where it is on the glycemic index, but I think it might be high.

Anyway, here is my recipe for sticky rice.

Firstly, you have to be sure to buy “Glutinous Rice”.  This will usually be imported from Thailand if bought outside of Asia.  Look for the keywords “Sticky Rice”, “Glutinous Rice”, or “Sweet Rice” on the bag.  The rice grains are generally more opaque than ordinary rice and can be short or long.

Soak the rice in water at least 3 hours.

sticky rice soaking
sticky rice soaking

You will need a tall pot to steam the rice.  In Thailand and Laos there are special narow-necked pots that are used to steam the rice, but if you can’t find one, any tall pot will do.

cooking sticky rice
cooking sticky rice

The essential component of making sticky rice successfully is that you have some kind of steaming basket (either wooden or metal, don’t use a plastic colander!) that is suspended OVER, not in, boiling water.  Also, there should be some kind of seal around the basket, so that when the water boils, instead of escaping through a hole, most of it should be directed under and into the basket of rice.  The rice/basket CANNOT be touching the water!  Your rice will turn out like gooey slop.

Bring water to a boil in a pot, and steam the rice for about 15 or 20 minutes, covered.  You can occasionally (2 or 3 times during the cooking process) shake the rice around to ensure even cooking.  Cover it with a pot’s lid or another basket.

steaming the rice
steaming the rice

After 15 minutes, taste some to see if it’s fully cooked.  Be careful of over cooking, the rice will become gooey.

When it’s done, put it in a basket as shown, or another almost-air tight container.  It can be kept unrefrigerated for about 24 hours.  Steam it for a few moments to refreshen it if you want to eat leftovers and enjoy your delicious khao niao!

sticky rice basket
sticky rice basket

And don’t forget – AT WITH YOUR HANDS!

cooking in laos – fish laap (or larb), traditional lao salad recipe with pictures!

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately!

Lunch at Mr. Somephone's House, A Traditional Lao Meal
Lunch at Mr. Somephone's House, A Traditional Lao Meal
here i am slicing beef for "lao steak"
here i am slicing beef for "lao steak"

Here’s some Lao Recipes:
Fish Laap

1 lb finely chopped pieces of boiled fish (I like tilapia) – let it cool before you try to make laap.
1 stalk of lemon grass, finely sliced
1 bunch of green onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed

Combine in a large bowl.

special thanks to mrs. amasavath and the other lady from the cataloguing department
special thanks to mrs. ampasavath and the other lady from the cataloguing department

2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp padec (Lao fermented fish paste… or substitute with 2 tbs Thai fish sauce)

essential for lao cooking
essential for lao cooking

2 Red Thai Chilies, finely sliced (or more/less, depending on your tolerance)
You can also add extra, “chili hang (strong)” if you want.  That would be dried chili flakes.

the strong stuff
the strong stuff

1/2 cup Sweet Thai Basil, fresh, whole leaves or coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro/corriander, fresh, whole leaves or coarsely chopped

1 cup fresh mint leaves, whole or coarsely chopped.

fish laap
fish laap

2 tbs of sticky rice powder

How to make sticky rice powder:
On medium heat, grill uncooked sticky rice grains until brown in a dry (no oil, water, etc.) pan.  Let it cool.  Pulverize in food processor and put through a sieve to get rid of the larger pieces that didn’t get ground finely enough.  Grilled sticky rice powder can be stored in a jar for a few months.


Laap should be eaten right away, and served at room temperature.  Don’t let it sit around too long or it will be “bor sep” (not delicious).  Enjoy your meal with sticky rice… sep lai!

Fish Laap is definitely my favorite traditional dish from Laos… though I love papaya salad as well.  You can substitute tofu or beef or chicken or anything you like for the fish.

Oh, and I went bowling with my students too.


I scored a 101, not bad considering I hadn’t picked up a bowling ball in over 2 years.  That was almost the highest score, beat only by Dao, on my right, who scored a 110.  Most of the rest of the class were around 50 pt area… but we had fun and that’s the point!  I taught them key English vocabulary including “strike”, “spare”, and “turkey”.

i get a job; i quit a job.

I got a job teaching English, and then quit the job the next day.

My neighbor’s friend owns an English school, and he called me on Monday morning and asked me if I wanted to teach a class Monday Wednesday and Friday evenings from 5-6:30 pm, starting that evening. I thought it would be a good idea to try it, so I said yes, before consulting with the library director. When, later that day, I mentioned it to the director, he told me not to do it. He said I should at least wait until my visa had been arranged, which will probably take another 2 weeks. But, I had already promised the guy I would come, so I went to the school about an hour before the class began, expecting to find a lesson plan and get some training and orientation. Instead, I sat and waited for about 45 minutes while everyone ran around hectically, waiting for some one who would show me what I should do. Eventually some one gave me some books, took me to a classroom, and said “Alright, here you go”. Then I was faced with about 6 Lao teenagers expecting me to teach them English. No one had even told me if it would be kids or adults, if there were tests, if there should be homework, how much I would get paid, or what to teach them. After struggling through regular and irregular verbs for an hour and a half I let the kids go, with the intention of finding out how much I was getting paid and then drinking a few BeerLaos. It was extremely frustrating, and after waiting another ½ hour after class to talk to somebody, when I found out I would get paid $9 an hour, minus tax, I basically decided that it was not worth it to continue. Mostly I was concerned that it would distract me from my main purpose here – my project at the Central Library, and also that I wouldn’t have time to prepare good lessons or be a good teacher. And it was too stressful anyway. So I went back the next day and told them I couldn’t do it. I felt kind of like and asshole, but I’m sure I will have other opportunities later to teach English if I really want to.

This is probably a least the 3rd or 4th time I have accepted a position, and then after starting, or sometimes even before starting, have decided I had over-extended myself and could not actually take the job. Hopefully I will learn not to do this anymore sometime soon.

I have been hanging out the past two days with an american I met last weekend at the 4th of July BBQ. She left today to go to Luang Prabang, so I already lost my only friend, but we did get to do some touristy things, including taking pictures of wats.

in Vientiane

We also walked around and tried to sample some interesting Lao cuisine. By far the best and most interesting was something called a “Loti”. It’s basically somewhat like a crepe, except rather than pouring the batter onto the hot surface, they flip a little piece of dough around and beat it flat with their hands, until it’s paper thin. Then, they fry it with butter and put some banana inside, and then fold it up into a square, cover it with sugar and sweetened condensed milk, and then cut it into little bite sized pieces. Holy shit is it delicious.

making lotis
making lotis

I bought some Lao silk recently on one of my journeys into Talat Sao, or “The Morning Market”.

It is so beautiful and relatively inexpensive compared with silk you would buy in the North America. My next mission is to find a second hand sewing machine.

In response to some queries regarding sticky rice:It is a different kind of rice, and you cook it differently from regular rice. Firstly, you must wash it two or three times. Then, it must be soaked at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, in water. Then you cook it for 20 minutes on a stove, high heat, though the Lao tell me it doesn’t taste as good if it’s cooked on a stove, to cook it over a fire. If you don’t have anywhere you can build a fire, the stove works fine, but you do need this special apparatus to cook it in (and try to have a small kitten available to watch the pot):

Kitty & Sticky

So the water in the bottom part of the pot boils, and steams the rice.  You cook it this way for 20 minutes, and then you put it  smaller wicker basket to serve.  And you HAVE to eat it with your hands.