Wednesday, 18 May 2011

How to make Mango Sticky Rice

Ma Muang Khao Niaow ("niaow" rhymes with a cat's miaow) translates as mango with sticky rice (ma muang is mango, khao is rice, niaow - sticky). It is a classic Thai dessert. I've seen it prepared by the chefs at Mango Tree in London (at a Thai festival), read various recipes, eaten it in London and had the real thing in Thailand. Trouble is, no-one seems to agree on the recipe! So what's a girl to do?

The best example of the dish I had was in a night food market in Bangkok, on Soi 38 Sukhumvit (which translates as Alley number 38 off Sukhumvit Road), a bustlingly busy night market loved by hard-working Thais with no time to cook their own dinners and a handful of dedicated backpackers, notable from their relaxed gait and more-than-superficial tropical tans.

Picture: Ma Muang Stall, Soi 38 Sukhumvit, Bangkok, Thailand

So I'm going to do my best to approximate this dish. I went to London's Chinatown in search of Thai mangoes. I knew that the type sold in supermarkets right now, which tend to come from the Caribbean and thereabouts are lovely fruits, but do not have the intense sweetness needed for this dish. At time of writing in the UK the prevalent mango available is the Kent mango. Not as stringy as some of the other American/Caribbean mangoes - and just the kind of thing I would use for a dinner salad or fruit salad, but not right for this dish. So after a little searching I found exactly what I wanted in Loon Fung on Gerrard Street;  a Thai mango. OK, it was a little steep at £3.22 (I truly wish I were joking, but sadly, no) but after trying many varieties of mango from all manner of tropical climes, I knew this was going to be the only one which would match the ripe, sweet mellowness of the Bangkok delight I am trying to re-create. Apparently the name for this delightful mango is 'Naam Dok Maai' (flower nectar mango) - a totally appropriate description. You will know you are buying the right type of mango if what you buy resembles the 'Paisley' shape from Paisley pattern material - the shape is a classical mango shape.
Anyway, despite misgivings over the hefty price tag (if you knew what a bargain hunter I am, you would get it!),  I parted with the cold hard cash. If you are not willing to part with £3.22 for a single mango (which I would TOTALLY understand), then I advise you to get the small Indian/Pakistani mangoes with yellow skin - varieties include 'honey' and 'alfonso'. You are looking for a non-fibrous, thin skinned, intensely sweet mango..... I think I am getting a tad obsessed....!
Picture: A very expensive mango

Serves 2

1 small mug full of glutinous rice
1 + 3/4 small mugs full of water
1 very expensive Thai mango (but I'm not bitter!)
1 can coconut milk
3 tbsp palm sugar (use brown unrefined sugar if you can't find this ingredient)
1 pinch salt / 1/3rd tsp salt
fried split mung beans (topping) - Hard to find, but truly authentic!

The small mug of rice needs to be soaked in the first water in a bowl for as long as you can manage. I soaked mine for 3 hours. Overnight will most likely give you are more authentic results.

After soaking add the other 3/4 mug of water plus 1/4 can coconut milk.

Either put in a pan and bring to the boil for 12 minutes or until the liquid more or less disappears or cook in a the microwave. I've seen two lovely Thai ladies cook their sticky rice in the microwave on youtube, so don't sweat the 'is that authentic' issue. Besides, I cook all my rice in the microwave as it guarantees that it cooks by steaming/absorbtion.

If using microwave, then cook in a plastic rice cooker / lidded glazed pottery pot for 10-12 minutes.

Make the sauce by heating up the remaining coconut milk, salt and sugar together in a small pan. 
Picture: Freshly ground palm sugar, coconut milk and sea salt ready to make the sauce

When hot and well-combined, the sauce is done!

Prepare the mango. Cut into 3 thirds - one with the stone and 2 without, then remove the flesh from the 2 non-stone pieces by spooning out the mango goodness and then by using knife to trim the good bits from the stone piece. Cut all the mango into small bite sized pieces.
Picture: Step 1 of mango preparation; cutting into thirds

 Picture: Step 2 of mango preparation; harvesting and chopping the mango 'meat'

Serve a pile of the sticky rice with sliced mango. Pour sauce thoroughly over both. Top with friend mung beans if available. If not no topping or toasted sesame seeds would be great.

Picture: the finished pudding!

It is a dish which is well worth the effort.


  1. What is the best rice for this dish?

  2. The Thais use sticky rice. It will not work with ordinary rice as it is the stickiness of the texture that brings all the elements of the pudding together. The Thais call it Khao Nioaw. It is sold/labelled as 'glutinous rice'. I bought the 3 Elephant brand. I bought mine from a Chinese supermarket in London - it may have been See Woo. You should be able to buy the rice in Chinese/Thai grocers.

  3. I made this dish again last night. However, rather than microwave, I tried the steaming method. I soaked the sticky rice in water overnight, then poured the water away. I cooked the rice in a bowl in a stainless steel steamer full of boiling water. It took about 26 mins to cook the rice. The result was overall better than with the microwave, I must admit.