This week's guest editor is JJ Goode, the writer behind Andy Ricker's new cookbook, Pok Pok. All week, he'll be sharing some of his favorite recipes from the book, interviewing Andy about Thai cooking, and convincing us all to pick up a book and get in the kitchen.
Today: A sweet-salty Thai dish that's acceptable to eat at any time of day.
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Until I met Andy, I thought that mango with sticky rice -- slices of ripe fruit served with those distinctively chewy grains mixed with coconut cream -- was my favorite Thai dessert. Then I learned that it’s not really dessert at all.
In Thailand, the category of khong waan, or sweet things, isn’t necessarily meant to follow dinner. Instead, it comprises a vast bunch of snacks that happen to be sweet and that you eat at any time. In that sense, I like to think of Thai sweets as closer to donuts than to ice cream sundaes. People might look at you funny if you ate a sundae before noon; eating donuts is acceptable whenever you do it.
Mango with sticky rice showcases another quality common to khong waan: It isn’t all that sweet. Or at least, the sweetness is balanced by a good measure of saltiness. In this case, both the coconut cream mixture you stir into the sticky rice and the one you drizzle on at the end contain more salt than you might expect. Any fan of salted caramel understands why this is an awesome idea.
To make the dish, you need to find a few things: ripe mango, preferably a minimally fibrous variety such as the Mexican Ataulfo. You need a sticky rice steamer set (both the woven basket and pot-bellied pot), which typically costs less than $10. As for the pandan leaf, many Chinese and South East Asian markets stock it in the freezer section.
2 cups unsweetened coconut cream (preferably boxed) 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 fresh or frozen pandan leaf, tied in a knot
For the sweet sticky rice and mango
2 1/2 cups uncooked Thai sticky rice (also called “glutinous” or “sweet” rice), soaked for 2 hours in enough tepid water to cover 1 cup unsweetened coconut cream (preferably boxed) 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 fresh or frozen pandan leaf, tied in a knot 3 large ripe Ataulfo mangoes, peeled 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional
I help chefs write cookbooks! I’ve co-authored several, including Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand (Ten Speed) with Andy Ricker, A Girl and Her Pig (Ecco) with April Bloomfield, and Truly Mexican and Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales (Wiley) with Roberto Santibanez.