Mango Sticky Rice with coconut and pandan

Whenever I think of Southeast Asian desserts, mango sticky rice is probably at the top of my list for things that come to mind. Glutinous rice with ripe, fresh mango, and this salty coconut milk, the contrast and flavors are very different than what most people would associate with desserts. Some variations have toasted sesame seeds, others, toasted mung beans. In my case, I like toasted coconut just because it ties back in with the coconut milk being used in the dessert, and it adds some movement and a little bit of height to the dessert! Even though this dessert is deceptively simple, there is quite a bit of time that goes into preparing the main star – the rice. First and foremost, make sure you are using glutinous rice. There are a bunch of different kinds of rice varieties out there, but glutinous rice is the best option for sticky rice – other short grain rices work too worst comes to worst, but glutinous rice is what gives your sticky rice the, well, sticky quality to it! Glutinous rice is sweeter than your normal rice grain, and has a gluier texture that binds the cooked grains together in a cake-like way, perfect for sticky rice! With a sticky rice, you really want it to be its own unit. It needs to be really stuck together, to the point where you can pick up the rice and break off smaller pieces of it with your hands. There are quite a few steps you will need to take to guarantee that your rice achieves that texture.

For starters, rinse and soak the rice. Rinsing removes any excess starch from the rice, preventing it from getting stodgy like rice pudding or risotto. The soaking the rice overnight guarantees that it will be cooked through and evenly. I’m infusing the rice with a ginger and pandan infused coconut milk, just to really impart those Southeastern Asian flavors. Additionally, shaved mango ribbons that are macerated with lime juice and a salted pandan coconut milk are the garnishes I went with to add color, movement, and contrast to my rendition. With the ginger, you have this warming quality to the coconut milk and rice, which gives it a pleasant fragrance. The pandan adds another floral note, being a very popular ingredient in Southeast Asia. Pandan is a leaf that tastes a little sweet, but very floral. I used an extract, which was tinted green, and unintentionally, turned my rice a green color as well – it wasn’t unwelcomed, just unexpected! The mango, I went with shaved ribbons instead of large chunky cubes because I wanted to add more motion and flow to this dessert. Usually when I think of mango sticky rice, I think of a glob of sticky rice, a bunch of mango cubes, and coconut milk drizzled on top of it. So for the plating of this recipe, I went with little quenelles of the sticky rice, just to utilize more negative space with the ribbons of mango. The coconut flakes echo a similar movement to the mango, and the coconut milk is drizzled on tableside for a more interactive and fun experience!

For the sticky rice:
2/3 cups glutinous rice
1 1/2 cups water, plus more for soaking
a pinch of salt
Reserved pandan coconut milk

Rinse the glutinous rice under water until the water runs clear. Soak the cleaned rice with water and salt overnight. Then place the rice into a steamer and steam for 15 minutes. Pour the rice into a bowl and mix in the coconut milk, allowing the milk to soak into the rice for at least 1 hour.

For the pandan coconut milk:
1 14oz can coconut milk
3oz ginger, sliced
2 drops pandan extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp rice flour

In a pot, heat up the coconut milk with ginger and pandan until it comes up to a simmer. Pour 1/4 cup of the coconut milk through a sieve into the bowl with the sugar, allowing the sugar to dissolve into the coconut milk. You will be using this portion for the sticky rice.

With the remaining coconut milk, add in the salt and rice flour. Bring the pot back up to heat for about 1 minute on medium heat, stirring just to let the starch thicken the milk. Pass the rest of the milk through a sieve to remove any solids and allow the coconut milk to cool down.

For the mango ribbons:
1 mango
2 tsp lime juice
a pinch of salt

Peel the mango and slice in half. Carefully remove the seed and slice the actual flesh of the fruit into thin strips. Toss the strips with lime juice and salt.

To assemble:
Toasted coconut flakes

Dip your spoons into warm water and quenelle 3 pieces of the sticky rice. Garnish the rice with your mango ribbons and toasted coconut. Pour the coconut milk on top to serve.

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