This recipe is pretty special to me. When I first started dating my boyfriend, he told me his favourite dessert was mango sticky rice.
It’s a super simple concept – steamed sticky rice with sweet coconut flavour, topped with a creamy coconut sauce, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and served with a side of very sweet, very ripe mango. It’s the perfect dessert for anyone who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, isn’t a fan of the traditional “baked-goods”, or needs a dairy-free dessert. It sounds like a light, refreshing dish, but it’s actually quite rich and filling. The recipe is written to serve 2 with just 1/2 cup of rice – and trust me, it’s enough!
It’s also a bit tricky to get just right. It needs to be sweet, but lightly sweet, not cloying. It needs a hint of salt that you can just taste on the afterthought, to round out the flavour. The rice on its own shouldn’t be dry and fluffy, but silky smooth – but not wet, either.
Two years ago, when my boyfriend asked if I wanted to try making it, he made an off-handed comment that if I could actually get it right, he’d marry me. Okay, at 21, I was hardly sprinting to the altar, but I really liked him and wanted to keep him around, so I buckled down and did some research into it. I love studying food and recipes, and with the tremendous cultural presence that mango sticky rice has, it was such an interesting dive into Thailand’s food history and culinary techniques. I referenced as many “authentic” recipes as I could find, and even drew from several videos without English subtitles, to compile steps that were as straightforward, foolproof, and cost-effective as possible.
It’s pretty important to mention that cost is a huge factor in my cooking. Most of the time it’s far from the kind of glamorous cooking where I have sixteen little bowls to perfect the mise en place and lay out all my artisanal utensils on my white marble countertop. So the first few times we made this, I was steaming the rice using a neolithic combination of a saucepan, tin foil, and a microwave cover because I didn’t have a proper steamer. (Unsurprisingly, I still don’t.) I boiled water in the saucepan, pulled a sheet of tin foil tightly over it, which I had punctured in multiple places with a toothpick (to let the steam reach the rice). The rice sat (very, very carefully) on top of that tin foil, right atop the boiling water, and then I covered it all with a microwave cover to keep the steam contained.
So to give the story its happy ending: the mango sticky rice turned out beautifully, boyfriend was very happy, and I lived to see another day in this precarious relationship (just kidding). Here’s an old photo from that night, two years back, when we made it together for the first time:
Since then, I’ve made it a few more times, and I’ve made little tweaks and adjustments to make it even better and easier. Just some tips to keep in mind:
- less sugar is always better than more. This dessert is meant to have a light sweetness. I listed a range (2-3 tbsp) so stay on the lower end if you’re unsure.
- buy some quality coconut milk and coconut cream for this. As a general rule in cooking: the fewer the ingredients, the more their individual quality matters for the outcome.
- wait to slice the mango right before serving.
- when you mix the rice with the coconut milk, it’ll look far too wet at first. THAT’S OKAY. Let it chill out on the countertop, covered with a tea towel or paper towel, and sit on your hands for a bit. When you check back in 15 minutes, the rice will have absorbed the excess liquid. Like this:
Check the bottom of the recipe for more notes!
Thai Mango Sticky Rice
Makes 2 servings
- 1/2 cup sweet rice (also glutinous rice)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 2-3 tbsp white sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup coconut cream (or coconut milk*)
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- sesame seeds
- ripe mango, peeled
- Steam the rice for 20 minutes in total, flipping the rice at the 10-minute mark. (Just open the lid, use a fork or spatula to turn the rice over, and cover it again.)
- In a small saucepan on low heat, add the coconut milk, sugar, and salt. Warm and stir until well dissolved, ~3 minutes – don’t let it boil. Set aside off the heat.
- Place the rice in a bowl and add the coconut mixture in by the spoonful. Don’t pour it all in. You only want to use 3/4 of the coconut mixture, or it’ll be too wet. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or paper towel and let it sit on the counter for 15 min.
- Empty the saucepan and return it to low heat. Add the coconut cream, sugar, and salt, and stir until just dissolved. Warm it only to let it dissolve, ~1-2 minutes. Don’t heat it too much or it’ll lose its creaminess. Set aside off the heat.
- Uncover the rice and give it a gentle stir with a spoon or fork. Plate it, top with some coconut cream sauce, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with sliced mango. See note below for serving it cold.
NOTES + TIPS:
*you can use coconut milk in both of the sauces – the coconut cream is just thicker and makes a creamier sauce.
To serve this cold, cover and set aside the coconut cream sauce from step 4 to cool at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate it or it’ll clump. Chill the rice in the fridge until the sauce is no longer warm, and then serve.