Here is what started as a lengthy e-mail I recently wrote to Jenny Norton about the technical details of sticky rice.
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Sticky Rice (all the nuts and bolts)

Anyone who has spent any time with the Savath family knows about sticky rice or 'kow-niao.' It is a relatively easy meal, depending on what sides you make with to eat with it.

When we were little, I remember mom and dad making little sticky rice hotdogs (or as I liked to think of them, handgrenades) by packing a little pork sung into the middle of a ball or tube of sticky rice. Now that I am a parent of two; I have come to appreciate why we ate this so much- it is nearly a perfect toddler meal. If you've pre-soaked the rice, it takes about 10 minutes to make and is easy to clean up.

Things to Buy

There are really only a few things you need to buy, and typically you can find them in any Asian market that sells Thai food.

  1. A bag of Sticky Rice. Buying this for the first time is easier said than done. If unsure, I would ask an employee for help finding "Thai Sticky Rice." There are two kinds of sticky rice: Japanese and Thai. Thai sticky rice is the right kind, which usually has some kind of elephant on the front and lettering that looks sort of like Arabic. Thai sticky rice rarely says "sticky rice" on the front in English, and more frequently says "sweet rice." The wrong kind of sticky rice is Japanese sticky rice which is used for sushi and there is usually Japanese lettering on the front.
  2. A sticky rice steamer pot with bamboo basket thingy. The top of the pot looks like a funnel and the basket looks a bit like a straw hat.
  3. A basket for serving it. (You could get by serving it in a bowl lined with a paper towel or in a colander, but the basket keeps it from getting soggy and it is more visually impressive to guests when you have the right stuff)
  4. All of these items are available online too!

How to Cook It

  1. Rinse the rice. (Usually 1 cup is enough to feed 1 person)
  2. Soak the rice. (mom always said at lease 2-3 hours in cold water, but in college I managed to get pretty good results with about 45 minutes in hot water)
  3. Boil about 4 cups of water in the metal pot (make sure it's boiling before you start steaming your rice otherwise it may come out undercooked)
  4. Put the wet rice in the straw hat-looking steamer over a sink (to avoid getting your floor wet and to avoid getting excess starch in the pot which you will have to clean out later)
  5. Put the bamboo steamer with rice in it into the metal pot, cover the rice with whatever pot cover you have handy. Make sure the cover is the right size to rest on the streamer to and cover the top of the rice without touching it directly.
  6. Steam for about 10 minutes (until at least the top of the rice is sticky)
  7. Carefully take the steamer out of the pot and flip the whole rice ball over. Usually the top of the steamer is cool enough to grab with your bare hands, but I wouldn't take my word on that. At first you will need to use a wooden spoon. When you get to be professional, you can likely do it just by shaking the rice loose in the steamer and tossing it like flipping flapjacks or an omelet in a pan. The middle may stil be raw- that's ok.
  8. Put the steamer back on the pot and cover back on and steam for about another five minutes more until the whole thing is cooked through.
  9. Take the bamboo hat off the pot and break the rice up with a wooden spoon until there is very little steam continuing to come out of the rice. (Don't knead it like dough. Instead, break it apart and fluff it up to let the steam escape.) It is nearly impossible to over cook sticky rice. However, if you do not adequately aerate it before putting it into the serving basket, the remaining steam will condense into the rice, making it soggy. If you notice the the rice is excessively sticky on your hands when you eat, you probably skimped on this step.
  10. Put it in the serving basket and eat!
  11. Cleanup- I usually wait until the rice is dried and hard before cleaning the bamboo steamer and serving basket. Then it is easy to scrape out the hard bits with a spoon or butterknife. Don't do it with your hands because it can cut you/get under your fingernails. Also don't forget to clean out the bamboo parts before the next time because though hard chunks of rice really hurt when you bite into them. You will also have to clean out the steamer which will likely have white starch caked on the walls.

You can also cook sticky rice in an automatic rice steamer that has an appropriate setting, but I have found that this makes the rice too gooey and messy when eating. I guess it is a matter of preference, but I am partial to the bamboo steamer method.

Favorite Stuff to Eat it With

  1. Dipped in Soy Sauce or Maggi, a wheat based sauce that looks a lot like soy sauce but has a slightly different flavor.
  2. Chicken breast pan fried in a small amount of vegetable oil with some garlic, sugar, oyster sauce and light soy sauce
  3. Plain omelet with a little fish sauce- (see Ingredients) (mix about 1/8 tsp per egg in before frying it) - and sometimes lots of dill!
  4. Pork Sung- Ground up pork jerky that looks a bit like brown carpet. Usually sold in a round clear plastic container with a red label. There is a similar product called pork fu that is usually sold with a blue label also pretty good. (also available on Amazon)
    Pork sung
  5. Chinese Sausage - Red, very dry looking sausage sold in refrigerator (or on Amazon) (looks like mini-pepperoni in a vaccuum pack). You need to boil it for about 10 minutes then fry it in oil under low-medium heat, turning frequently until cooked through.
  6. A can of sardines in tomato sauce (I personally think this is kinda gross, but Kristen seems to have taken a liking to it.)
  7. Hot vinegar sauce, usually a dipping sauce for meats, but Laszlo likes to just dip the rice in it
  8. Spicy Meatballs
  9. Jell Mac-lain- spicy/tangy tomato dipping sauce
  10. Jell Bong- Chilli Paste in Soy Bean Oil. Commercially available at Asian markets, but the Savath family recipe is the best- even I have not been privy to this secret recipe yet, so it will not likely be on this site for a few decades.
  11. With sweetened coconut milk and mangoes for dessert.
  12. Dad and Mom's double deep fried venison jerky!
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