Summer is approaching, and with our focus on Thai cuisine this month, we had to feature one of the most emblematic summer desserts of the Land of Smiles: khao neow mamuang or mango with sticky rice.
Mango with sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง) is a dessert that is prepared with glutinous rice, fresh mango and coconut milk, that is topped with crunchy toasted mung beans. It is a ubiquitous dessert in Thailand, as well as Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and has also become common in other Southeast Asian countries and beyond.
Although it can be served all year long, it is more popular around April and May when the mangoes are in season. Perfect timing then!
I recently made a trip to Thai Town in Los Angeles, the 6-block stretch in the East Hollywood neighborhood to purchase all my ingredients for my Thai recipes this month. What a treat! It is there that I purchased glutinous rice, the same rice that I have already used to prepare my laab kai salad. In the salad, I used it in a toasted, then ground version. For the khao neow mamuang, I actually cooked it. Glutinous rice is very popular in Thailand and in the region. Beside mango with sticky rice, it is also used in other popular desserts like khao tom, which consists or sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. This dessert is reminiscent of koba ravina from Madagascar, although we had used glutinous rice flour for this dessert. Khao mak is another popular Thai dessert made with sticky rice. This dessert is actually prepared with look-pang, a starch ball made with garlic, galangal, pepper, and yeast, that allows the sticky rice to ferment and develop some alcohol content, which is why this dessert is traditionally an adult dessert.
Thailand has historically been the number one exporter of rice in the world, but this position has been challenged by India and Vietnam in the recent years. Thailand offers a large variety of rices beyond glutinous rice. The most famous is of course Jasmine rice, also called hom mali (Thai fragrant rice), sweet-smelling long grain rice which traditionally accompanies Thai curries like kaeng kari kai (yellow curry). But Thailand also features other interesting rices such as brown sticky rice (khao neow dum) or colored rices (green: pandan leaves or blue: anchan or butterfly pea flower) which are used in desserts.
Khao niaw (sticky rice) is often eaten by hand when served with dishes of northeastern influence (Isan region) like laab. It is traditionally steamed in a bamboo basket called huad (or huat). However, it can just as well be cooked in a rice cooker, although the result may not be as light.
For the mango with sticky rice, once the sticky rice is cooked, you have to “mun” it. In Thai, mun means to heap or pile up. This operation consists in mixing the sweetened coconut milk into the sticky rice.
Once the sticky rice has absorbed all the coconut milk, it is topped with a salted version of the same sweetened coconut milk. This combination of sweet and savory could throw off some people, and I was hesitant about it when I first tasted this dessert more than 10 years ago. However, it just works! The same salted sauce can also top the mango. The dessert is finally sprinkled with toasted mung beans, although you can also find toasted or black sesame seeds.
The type of mango that is typically used for this mango and sticky rice dessert in Thailand are juicy nam dawk mai and ok rong varieties. If you cannot find those varieties where you live, just go with ripe mangoes.
You can’t go wrong with mango and sticky rice, and this dessert should be your go to easy-to-make dessert for any Southeast Asian meal. Sweet, savory and just luscious!
- 3 cups sticky rice
- 2 cups coconut cream
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 ripe mangoes
- 2 oz. yellow mung beans or sesame seeds
- ½ cup coconut cream
- ⅓ tsp salt
Rinse the sticky rice a few times until the water is almost clear and soak it for at least 4 hours.
Steam the sticky rice. Alternatively, you can also cook it with the same volume amount of water for about 15 minutes.
In a saucepan on medium heat, add the coconut cream and stir for 2 minutes.
Then, add the sugar, the salt, and keep stirring until the sugar completely dissolves.
Take the coconut cream mixture off the heat, and add a couple spoons into the sticky rice. Mix gently.
Add the coconut cream mixture to the sticky rice one spoon at a time and keep stirring.
Put the coconut cream in a saucepan on medium heat, add the salt, and stir gently until it boils.
Put the mung beans in a pan on low heat. Dry fry the mung beans for a few minutes, stirring regularly until golden brown and crispy.
Serve sliced mango, with sticky rice on the side. Drizzle coconut cream topping and sprinkle with mung beans. Mango with sticky rice should be eaten warm.