The sticky rice, also called Khao Niao in Lao language, glutinous rice and soft rice, is the base of the food in Laos. It has been cultivated there for 4000 years.
Whereas white rice grows in flooded rice fields, sticky rice requires less water, and can be harvested on high mountain plateau. This is a specific variety of rice, rich in gluten and starch. Once it’s steam cooked, the grains become sticky and agglutinate each other, that’s why it called so. It can be white, black or even purple. As these two last varieties are rarer, they are more expensive, and often used in deserts.
During the ceremony of almsgiving’s, people give mostly sticky rice to the monks. This variety is quite long to be digested, so this is the perfect meal for them as they are allowed to eat only once a day.
People eat it making small balls with their fingers. The aimis to use this little ball as an utensil. The basic process is to grab a small stack of rice, roll it in a shape of a spoon, and then use is as so. That’s really fun to try for the first time. It can also be the base of a recipe (like the delicious Mango and Coco milk sticky rice).
Sticky rice, steam cooking, 2 ways to do it
Traditional way :
Take approximately two full hands of dry rice per person (50g) and leave it water for a night. Then, you take a bamboo basket and put it on a metal or terracotta jar full of boiling water. Rice is poured in the basket and steam cooked, covered with a plate. It has to be turned around 30min after. Wait for another half hour and it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, rice is put in small bamboo recipients. It is not glutinous, but sticky.
The other way :
Take the same quantity of rice per person, and leave it in 2-3 times its volume of cold water for 1 or 2 hours. Then, wash it and drain it.
It’s possible to do a homemade cooking basket. You just have to find a pot a little wider than the strainer. Water has to boil in the pot with a level lower than the strainer, and this last one has to be set on top with a cloth in the bottom. Rice is poured directly in the strainer to be cooked for 20-30 minutes. Then, you have to turn it around, and let it cook for 15-20 more minutes.
Once it’s cooked, you should leave in a plate and mix it to let the steam go, and avoid the rice to become pasty.