Getting That Perfectly Steamed Sticky Rice

Sticky rice, sweet rice, glutinous rice–whatever you call it, this rice it is a staple in Thai cooking, with desserts. But how on earth do you cook it?

In this month’s Thai Culinary Explorer with Suparvadee we get a taste of sweet sticky rice with mango. Here is an overview of ways to prepare this delicious dish at home:

Unlike other rices such as jasmine or brown rice, sweet rice is not supposed to be cooked directly in liquid. Instead, the rice gets steamed and the water vapors create this lovely tacky texture that is commonly found in Thai cooking.

So if we aren’t cooking the rice in boiling water, how on earth can we make this at home? Here are three techniques all approved by Suparvadee to ensure you get an authentic sticky rice:

Firstly, put those rice cookers away, unless you have a specially equipped steam basket that can hold the rice. It is better to use more traditional methods of steaming.

Suparvadee uses an old fashioned foolproof steaming system, the bamboo steamer. This steamer is unlike anything we have seen.  It is composed of two parts, a water pot and a bamboo basket. The cone-shaped bamboo basket sits above two inches of boiling water and fully cooks the rice from the bottom and top. After the water boils, you slightly lower the heat and put your basket on top of the pot with the sticky rice cradled in the bamboo weave. Place a regular kitchen bowl over top of the rice inside the basket to create a chamber that traps the water vapors in. After ten minutes of cooking you will need to flip your rice by carefully removing the bowl, shaking the basket to loosen the rice, and giving it one forceful toss. The entire block of sticky rice will turn over. Cover with the bowl again and return to the boiling pot for ten more minutes. Then you will have perfectly cooked sticky rice.

But you might be wondering what should we do if we don’t have a Thai Bamboo steamer. We have two simple solutions that will get you such great rice that you will think Suparvadee came to your home and made it for you.

Option 1. Sweet and simple bowling

Take a large pot with a lid and a small bowl with a foot (a ledge that raises the bowl off the floor and creates a bit of space between the bowl and any surface it touches) and some water. You are looking to boil roughly two inches of water. Take your bowl and fill it with your cleaned sweet rice. Once the water is boiling, using a pair of strong tongs, add the bowl to the center of the boiling water and lower the heat to a medium/low flame. Cover with a lid and let cook for 13-15 minutes. After 13-15 minutes, mix the rice–your goal is to flip the grains from the bottoms to the top. Cook for another 13-15 minutes with the lid on. Taste the rice. At this point you are searching for a sticky but not gummy texture–you want the rice to be cooked throughout. If the rice is still a bit raw, cook longer.

Option 2. A splatter guard that cooks

What makes a bamboo steamer such a great cooking method for sticky rice is its ability to allow the steam to enter the rice from all sides. A great, simple way to recreate that is by using a shallow pan and a splatter guard.  A splatter guard is a thin mesh fryer cover that is used to prevent splattering. Create a mound of sticky rice in the center of a splatter guard. Place the guard over a shallow pan of boiling water. Cover the rice with a medium-sized bowl. Your goal is to allow for a bit of clearance around the rice, which will allow the rice to properly steam from all sides. Lower the heat to medium/low and cook for ten minutes. Once you have fully mixed your rice, return the inverted bowl to the splatter guard and cook for another 10 minutes. This should give you enough cooking time for a perfect sticky rice.

So whether you want to get an original Thai steamer just for sticky rice or make do with a few key tools in your kitchen, everyone has the ability to make incredible sticky rice at home. We hope you give one of these trials a test cook and let us know what you think.

Enjoy good food, good company, and explore!

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Meet Suparvadee!

We wanted to give you all a look at what learning from our Master Cooks is really like.  Meet Suparvadee and some of our Culture Kitchen Students as they tackle one of our favorite Thai Menus.