I feel like Thai mango sticky rice, or khao niew ma muang, is greatly underrated—yet is somehow also widely known. It’s a wonderful summer dessert that uses only a few ingredients and has a distinct flavor. The pairing of floral mango and buttery coconut is like a lost romance. I truly didn’t realize how well they go together until trying this dish for the first time at a Thai restaurant. The mangoes, freshly sliced over the rice before serving, are sweet and slightly tart, and they balance the milky richness of the coconut-flavored glutinous rice delightfully. This can be a great snack to share with a couple friends, or a hearty sweet treat after lunch or dinner. It can easily be portioned up or down, and it’s a fantastic way to take advantage of mango season. Also, it doesn't matter what kind of mango you use: Any variety will do just as long as it's very ripe and juicy.
Eating Laotian dishes like khao niew ma muang (Laos borders Thailand, and the two share a great deal of cuisine and culture) brings me back to sharing meals with my grandparents, and picking mangoes from our family's tree. The traditional method of steaming sticky rice is done with a specific Thai or Laotian cone-shaped bamboo steaming basket that fits into a tall aluminum pot. However, there are alternative ways to achieve fluffy sticky rice using a bamboo steamer or a fine-mesh sieve, which you’ll find in the instructions below.
This sticky rice is so good, you’ll be surprised how quickly another craving for it will hit. So take advantage of mango season and enjoy this delicious dessert out in the sunshine—it’ll just taste a tiny bit better.
- Prep time 5 hours 30 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 2 to 3
full-fat coconut milk
1 to 2
ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into about 1-inch slices
toasted yellow mung beans or sesame seeds, optional, for serving
- In a medium bowl, wash and rinse the rice several times with cold water (about 5 to 6 rounds—it’s okay if the water is still slightly cloudy). Soak the rice for a minimum of 5 hours, preferably overnight, until totally hydrated. To test if the rice is ready for steaming, rub a few grains between your fingers to see if they break apart and crumble. If so, this means the rice has absorbed the water and is ready.
- Drain the rice well in a fine-mesh sieve. Fill a large pot with enough water to hit just below where a bamboo steamer or fine-mesh sieve (use whichever you have) will sit comfortably in the pot. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. If using a steamer, line it with cheesecloth, then add the rice and smooth out the grains into an even layer. If using a sieve, place the rice in the sieve and smooth out the grains into an even layer. Place the covered steamer or the sieve over the boiling water. (If using a sieve, cover with a tight-fitting lid.) Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low to keep the water simmering, then steam the rice for 10 to 15 minutes, or until you can scoop a small piece of it out with a spoon and it holds its form. The grains should be stuck together and chewy, but shouldn’t be mushy.
- While the rice is steaming, in a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in the sugar and salt until completely dissolved, then turn off the heat. Scoop out 2 to 3 tablespoons of this mixture and reserve in a small bowl. Keep warm by turning off the heat and covering with a lid.
- Transfer the cooked rice to a medium bowl and use a fork to stir in 2 tablespoons of the coconut milk sauce at a time. Keep stirring, breaking up any lumps and adding more of the coconut sauce, until the consistency is like a thick porridge. If there is extra coconut sauce, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place a piece of tin foil over the bowl with the rice and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to slowly absorb the liquid.
- Serve the sticky rice with sliced mangos. Pour the reserved coconut milk sauce over the rice and top with toasted mung beans or sesame seeds, if using.