Thai Delicacy: Mango and Coconut Sticky Rice
Indulge in the irresistible Thai dessert of glutinous sticky rice, infused with the perfect balance of sweet and salty coconut milk, and accompanied by tender, fragrant mango slices.
1 cup of Thai sweet sticky rice (approximately 7 ounces or 200g) (refer to notes)
1 can of full-fat coconut milk (14 ounces or 400ml), well-blended to incorporate fat, divided
1/2 cup of sugar (about 3 1/2 ounces or 100g), divided
A pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of cornstarch (about 6g)
2 Ataúlfo mangoes (each weighing about 6 ounces or 170g), peeled, pitted, and sliced (refer to notes)
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
- In a spacious bowl, cover the rice with water, ensuring it’s submerged by several inches, and let it soak at room temperature for 1 hour or overnight.
- After soaking, drain the rice. Prepare a steamer, lining it with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel, and place the rice inside, smoothing it to form an even layer. Set the steamer over high heat, bring the water to a boil, then cover and steam the rice until it becomes tender, which should take about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat half of the coconut milk over medium heat, stirring frequently until it simmers. Whisk in 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar and a generous pinch of salt until fully dissolved, creating a sweet-salty coconut milk mixture.
- Transfer the cooked rice to a large heatproof bowl and pour the coconut milk mixture over it (even if it seems like an excessive amount of liquid). Stir thoroughly to combine, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow it to sit until the liquid is absorbed, roughly 20 minutes. It can be kept at room temperature for a maximum of 2 hours.
- While the rice is resting, clean the saucepan and add the remaining coconut milk. Warm it on medium heat, stirring frequently. In a small bowl, create a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with a couple of teaspoons of the hot coconut milk, stirring until it forms a smooth mixture. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the coconut milk and simmer until it thickens, typically about 3 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and a generous pinch of salt until fully dissolved. Keep the coconut cream warm.
- When you’re ready to serve, heap the coconut rice onto plates and arrange the sliced mango alongside it. Drizzle the coconut cream generously over the rice and finish by garnishing with toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
One of the most crucial qualities a chef should possess is adaptability—the willingness and ability to change plans in an instant, whether out of necessity or pure inspiration. Just the other day, for instance, I was entering a supermarket in New York City with a shopping list for a simple bean salad I had intended to prepare when I spotted a towering display of Ataúlfo mangoes. When I left the store, there were no beans in my bag. Instead, I had those mangoes, along with coconut milk and Thai glutinous rice. In the blink of an eye, I had shifted from a savory bean salad to a dessert of Thai coconut sticky rice with mango (khao niao mamuang), all thanks to the Ataúlfo mango season.
If you’re unfamiliar with Ataúlfos, they are a Mexican mango variety that has become increasingly accessible in the United States during their short season, which typically spans from March to July. They are smaller and slimmer than the larger Tommy Atkins mangoes typically available, but more importantly, they are sweeter, more aromatic, and more flavorful, with fewer fibers.
When Ataúlfo mangoes are in season, you’ll undoubtedly find them on the menus of Thai restaurants here in New York, almost always as a part of this sticky rice dessert. While in Thailand, other mango varieties are used, and not a Mexican one like the Ataúlfo, in the Western Hemisphere, the Ataúlfo serves as a suitable substitute. (The lackluster Tommy Atkins, on the other hand, does not—when it’s the only mango available in the market, this dessert vanishes from menus.)