Why Cooking Sticky Rice is (a bit) Tricky
Why are there at least 7 ways to cook sticky rice, and why are none of them just...throwing rice into a pot of water like you do with any other kind of rice? Well, it's because Thai sticky rice is a little bit...sensitive.
Trust me, if you could cook it like regular rice the whole nation of Thailand wouldn't do it any other way. Sticky rice can't absorb much water, and it is not forgiving at all if you add even a bit too much - so cooking it in water willy-nilly can result in mushy rice very easily.
So the wise people of the past discovered that if you soak the rice in water for at least 3 hours until it is completely saturated, and then steam it OUT of water, there is no chance that it can overcook. Brilliant, right?
But not all of us have the time or the equipment to do it traditionally, so here's my roundup of all the ways that I know of that you can cook sticky rice, along with the pros and cons of each method.
To Soak, or Not to Soak?
The 7 methods can be divided into 2 categories: soak and steam, and no soak. Usually, the results are better using the soak-and-steam methods for the reasons I described above, but if you're short on time there are options!
What Do I Eat Sticky Rice With?
Generally, we love it with meats. Here are a few classic meat dishes that are often paired with sticky rice:
- BBQ Chicken
- Fried chicken wings
- BBQ pork skewers,
- Ground meat salad (Laab).
- Or try it with northern Thai food, which is commonly eaten with sticky rice. You can dip it into the thick sauce of Hung Lay curry; or if you like carb-on-carb, it's fantastic with spicy curry glass noodle stir-fry.
- Thai glutinous rice, aka "Thai sweet rice". I recommend cooking around ⅓ - ½ cup uncooked sticky rice per person.
- Water, amount depending on method, see instructions below
SOAK & STEAM METHODS:
Step 1: Wash your rice in room temp water for a few times until the water runs mostly clear. [Video 00:58] This is necessary regardless of which method you choose, otherwise you will end up with gummy rice!
Step 2: Soak your rice in plenty of room temp water for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably 4 (especially if your rice is old), and for up to 12 hours. [Video 01:45]
Step 3: Drain the rice and steam for 20-25 minutes (may take longer if making a lot), using any of the following implements (see video at the time indicated for details):
- Bamboo Cone Steamer [Video 02:27]
- Steamer Rack + Cloth [Video 04:50]
- Metal Sieve [Video 06:39]
- HACK for extra soft sticky rice, and highly recommended if you are serving rice at room temp: Soak-Steep-Steam [Video 07:26]
NO SOAK METHODS (cooking rice in water):
Step 1: Wash your rice. [Video 00:58]
Step 2: Drain your rice EXTREMELY WELL. You want to use a sieve, then shake and shake until water is no longer dripping from the rice. As I mentioned above, sticky rice overcooks very easily. So if we're going to cook sticky rice IN water it's important that you do not accidentally use too much water by not draining well enough.
Step 3: Cook the rice using any of the methods below using the ratio of 1 part rice to ⅔ parts water by volume. Depending on your rice, you may need a little less water than ⅔, so if it comes out a little too soft, add less water for your next batch. See video at the indicated time for details.
- No Soak - Steam-the-Bowl [Video 10:56]
- No Soak - Rice Cooker [Video 12:32]
- No Soak - Microwave [Video 14:52]