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.
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.
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.
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!
And don’t forget – AT WITH YOUR HANDS!