2 1/2 cups
uncooked Thai sticky rice (also called “glutinous” or “sweet” rice), soaked for 2 hours in enough tepid water to cover
unsweetened coconut cream (preferably boxed)
fresh or frozen pandan leaf, tied in a knot
large ripe Ataulfo mangoes, peeled
toasted sesame seeds, optional
In This Recipe
Make the salty-sweet coconut cream topping: Combine the 2 cups of coconut cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in a small pot. Add the pandan leaf to the pot. It’s fine if it isn’t completely submerged. Set the pot over high heat, bring the mixture to a simmer (don’t let it boil), then decrease the heat to low. Cover and cook until the cream has thickened slightly and is infused with pandan flavor, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the pandan leaf. Covered, the cream keeps at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
Make the sweet sticky rice: Pour off the soaking water. Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer set inside a large bowl. Fill the bowl with enough cool tap water to cover the rice by an inch or two. Use your hand to gently stir the rice, then lift the strainer from the bowl. The water in the bowl will be cloudy from the rice starch. Empty the water, set the strainer in the bowl again, and repeat the process until the water is, more or less, clear. You’ll probably have to change the water two or three times. Drain the rice.
Pour enough water into the sticky rice steamer pot to reach a depth of about 2 inches. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Either add the rice to the mesh bag and put the bag in the basket or line the woven steamer basket with two layers of damp cheesecloth and dump the rice onto the cheesecloth. Fold the bag or cheesecloth so it covers the rice, pat the bundle so the rice is in a more or less even layer, and cover with a pot lid or clean, damp kitchen cloth, tucking it around the bundle. Decrease the heat slightly to maintain a steady but not furious boil and set the basket into the pot. Cook until the grains are fully tender but slightly underdone, about 12 minutes (rather than the typical 15 minutes).
Meanwhile, combine the 1 cup of coconut cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of salt in a medium pot. Add the pandan leaf, set the pot over high heat, and bring the mixture to a simmer (don’t let it boil). Cook, stirring, just until the sugar has fully dissolved, about a minute. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the mixture sit to infuse it with the flavor of pandan, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the pandan leaf. Let this cream mixture cool just until it’s warm but no longer hot.
Add the cooked sticky rice to the pot and gently stir and fold it until it’s evenly coated in the cream mixture. Cover the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes. The rice will get more tender and absorb the coconut mixture. The sticky rice mixture keeps covered in the fridge for up to a day. To reheat it, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on low just until the rice is warm (but not hot) throughout, and serve it right away.
To serve the dish: Cut each mango lengthwise on both sides of the pit to remove the flesh in two large pieces. Cut the pieces crosswise into approximately 1/2 inch-thick slices. Put 3/4 to 1 cup of the sweet sticky rice on each of 6 plates, gently press it to make an even layer, then divide the mangoes evenly on top. Top each serving with about 2 tablespoons of the salty-sweet coconut cream topping and a sprinkle of the sesame seeds.
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.