Khao niao mamuang, or mango sticky rice, is a Thai dessert typically made with glutinous rice—a short grain rice that doesn’t contain gluten at all, but gets its name from the sticky, glue-like texture it gets when cooked. While the dessert is made up of fairly simple ingredients (glutinous rice, fresh mangos, sugar, coconut milk, salt) it requires a whole lot of foresight to soak the rice hours and hours before cooking, having a special steamer to cook the rice, plus time for the rice to soak up the sauce before serving. This recipe is a total cheater version that skips all of those parts entirely, resulting in something that is similar to the beloved Thai dessert, but also has its own decadent vibe from sweetened condensed milk. Cooking regular ol’ jasmine rice in coconut milk gives this version its sticky texture and a subtle coconut flavor.
I know not everyone is like me…but I don’t like making dessert. I absolutely love having guests over for a meal and relish in planning what to have out for nibbles when they arrive and what to serve for dinner but by the time I get to thinking about making dessert, I’m looking desperately at the dregs of the ice cream pints already in the bottom of my freezer and wondering if it’s socially acceptable to offer up those to my guests. (It’s probably not.)
But if you are able to get your hands on butterfly pea tea, an herbal tea made of dried blue flowers that turn the water a rich, royal blue when steeped, then you can make this sweet, coconutty blue rice that will totally provide a wow factor for your guests (or your own eyeballs) without a whole lot of planning. I found my supply at a local grocery co-op but butterfly pea tea can also be ordered online. (Also found online are a bunch of sites touting the health benefits of drinking the tea but I’m no expert on their validity, nor do I think that there is much flavor that comes with including the tea in this recipe. So if you don’t care for blue food, this recipe works perfectly well replacing the tea with water.)
Mango Coconut “Sticky” Rice
(Makes 4 servings)
- 1 cup jasmine rice*
- 3/4 cup coconut milk, shaken or stirred
- 3–4 tbsp sweetened condensed milk, plus extra for serving
- 1 heaping tbsp dried butterfly pea flower tea (optional)
- 1–2 ripe mangos
- 1 pinch of salt
- sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
* Note about measuring rice: I’ve noticed that many rice recipes use measurements based on the small, plastic cup that comes with many rice cookers. To avoid ambiguity, this recipe’s measurements are all based on the standard U.S. measuring cup, which is about 240 mL.
To make the tea, steep your butterfly pea flowers in 1 1/2 cups of hot water for at least 15 minutes. You will only use 1 cup for this recipe, but I’ve allocated a buffer because some of the water will be absorbed and discarded when you discard the dried flowers. Alternatively, you could use less flowers and steep for longer or use more for a quicker steep or richer color. Enjoy drinking the rest; if you combine it with lemonade it will turn bright purple!
Thoroughly wash and drain your rice and place it in your rice cooker pot. Add 1 cup of blue tea (if using, or 1 cup water). Be sure to give your coconut milk a good shake or stir before measuring it out because the thick cream and the coconut water separate when stored. Add your coconut milk and salt to the rice cooker. Stir thoroughly, and then turn on your rice cooker to whatever setting you normally use for making regular steamed jasmine rice. My sad little rice cooker literally only has one setting: COOK. But if you have a fancy one, I hope there is a setting for normal steamed rice that you can use, otherwise you have made an unwise investment, my friend.
While your rice is cooking, prep your mango. To start, make sure you’ve gotten yourself some nice, ripe, sweet mangoes that do not look like the hard green mangoes I stupidly purchased here. Once you feel confident in your mango selection, determine how you want to present your mango in your finished dessert and execute on that plan. I wanted to do something aesthetically pleasing for you, so I made that rose by peeling off the skin of the mango with a vegetable peeler, and then using that same tool to peel thin strips of mango flesh. I then rolled one into a tight spiral for the center of the rose, and kept wrapping additional strips around it for the rose “petals”. Not interested in going through that trouble? Your dessert will be great no matter how you slice or dice your mango. (Don’t like mango at all? This sticky rice also tastes great with ripe kiwi, grilled pineapple, or other tropical fruits.)
When your rice cooker tells you it’s done doing its thing, quickly remove the pot from the heat and add your condensed milk. Mix gently (I use a rice paddle for this) so as to not mush up the rice, but make sure the condensed milk is well incorporated, tasting along the way to sweeten the rice to your liking. Leave the rice covered to keep it from drying out.
To serve, plate the rice together with the mango. Drizzle with some additional condensed milk over everything to bring the whole dish together and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top if you’d like a little extra texture.
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