I’m preparing for another trip to Asia this summer, and one of the places I hope to visit is Malaysia. When I mentioned this to my mom, she immediately told me I have to eat mango sticky rice there. “It’s so fragrant.” she said. “Now I really want some.” (This is how conversations in my family go.)

Mango sticky rice is not something I grew up eating. But in Vietnam, my parents often ate foods from surrounding countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Even though mango sticky rice is actually Thai, my mom has somehow come to associate it with Malaysia, which goes to show some of the culinary interchange in that region. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to Southeast Asia, loving the flavors from that area that make me think of home.

So when I came upon mango sticky rice at an Asian street fair in DC a few weeks ago, I wanted to attempt making it myself. Traditionally this dish is made by steaming the rice. I don’t have a bamboo steamer, so I simply made this in my rice cooker. I realized later I might be able to steam it in my pasta pot, lined with a piece of cheesecloth, so I gave that a try. But I found that method made the rice more grainy, less glutinous, less sticky. So I actually prefer the rice cooker, which yields rice so sticky that, as I was mixing in coconut milk, it almost looked like I was making rice krispy treats with melted marshmallow. The fragrant aroma of coconut milk and the fresh taste of ripe, nectar-sweet mango in this dish evoke for me the cool tropical flavors of Southeast Asia.

Mango Sticky Rice
Serves 6
Adapted from Real Thai Recipes

3 cups of raw glutinous rice (also called sweet rice or sticky rice)
3 cups of coconut milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds, salted fried mung beans, or toasted shredded coconut (optional)
3 ripe mangoes, preferably yellow Champagne mangoes

1 1/2 cup of coconut milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp corn starch

1. Soak the sticky rice in water overnight. If using a rice cooker, soak the rice in the amount of water you intend to cook it in (as indicated for sticky rice on the rice cooker), as you will not be able to tell how much water has been absorbed overnight.

2. Cook the rice in the rice cooker. Meanwhile, heat 3 cups of coconut milk in a saucepan with the salt and sugar. Stir over low heat until dissolved. Set aside.

3. To prepare the sauce, heat the 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk in another small saucepan with the salt and sugar. Stir over low heat until dissolved. Mix the cornstarch with a little bit of water and stir until dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the coconut milk mixture in the saucepan, stirring until it begins to thicken. Set aside.

4. When the rice is cooked, spread it in a shallow bowl or pan and slowly add the first coconut milk mixture about 1/4 cup at a time, each time stirring well to fully incorporate the liquid. I used a flat rice paddle and kept folding and spreading the rice out. I like my sticky rice moist, so I keep adding the coconut milk mixture until just before the rice stops absorbing any more liquid. Make sure there are no pools of coconut milk in the rice, though. The liquid should be fully absorbed. Cover and let the rice sit for about 10-15 minutes to keep absorbing the coconut milk.

5. Peel the mangoes and then slice off two sides, leaving the pit in the middle. You should have two palm-sized sides now. Take each side and slice into thick strips. Arrange on a plate and spoon an equal amount of sticky rice next to it. Top the rice with the sauce and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, fried mung beans, or toasted shredded coconut.