I remember the first time I tried sticky rice with mango. It was September 2014 in San Francisco. Two friends and I went to have lunch at a Thai restaurant. Chatting and laughing, before I knew it I had inhaled my red curry and I thought my stomach was going to explode. Although I thought I couldn’t eat one more bite, one of the girls ordered Khaw Neaw Ma Muang, or sweet sticky rice with mango.
My first thoughts were, how could you make a rice dessert? How could it that be good? I was completely ignorant to the fact that rice was the base of most Asian desserts, and to the fact that many times in Latin America I had eaten sweet rice. Had I ever heard of arroz con leche? Yes! And I loved it.
I took a spoonful of the soft, literally sticky rice and started to chew. It was smooth, sweet and creamy. Sometimes the taste of coconut takes me immediately to the feeling of a beach and sun on my skin. After that first bite, I was hooked.
I had three days left in my visit to San Francisco. Each day when I saw a Thai restaurant I went in to see if they had sticky rice with mango. Each day I was more disappointed than the next. All of the restaurants claimed that mangos were out of season, so no they didn’t have any. This is the United States, I thought. One of the worst offenders of food entitlement, where we can get whatever we want, whenever we want, regardless of the environmental consequences. The one time that I’d like to be a perpetrator, you’re telling me no, no I can’t?
Disgruntled (I WANTED MY STICKY RICE) I left the city, daydreaming of the sugary coconut flavored warm rice. It wouldn’t be until October 2015 when I landed in Bangkok that I would try it again and fall more in love than I thought possible (Ibiza wasn’t great in the winter for food diversity).
Bangkok was one giant playground with temptations on food carts on every corner. There were even more possibilities than I imagined. You don’t just have to have sticky rice with mango. You can have sticky rice with custard, sticky rice with bananas or sticky rice with nuts.
I discovered that there are even more unexpected twists to this dessert staple. Chefs take various plant leaves and extract their juice to create natural food coloring. Rice isn’t just white, either. We’ve had green, blue, and purple sticky rice.
I’ve taken every advantage of the endless supply of fresh mangos and sticky rice. Chaotic markets, upscale restaurants and cooking classes a know that farangs -foreigners- can’t resist the sticky. It’s everywhere. A fact that has become a love/hate relationship. It’s become somewhat of a black market exchange: I trade my money and my figure for a blissfully satisfied palate.
When I return to the U.S., I’m going to do my best to recreate my newfound food obsession. Part of me knows that it won’t be the same. I wouldn’t feel the humidity of Thailand when I reach for the spoon, or feel the sun making me sweat through my armpits as I let the coconut taste dissolve on my tongue.
At my cooking class at Asia Scenic Cooking School in Chiang Mai, we learned how to make sweet sticky rice from the recipe in the photo below.
I also found a recipe (with special instructions for people living in the U.S. on where to find essentials to make it) on the blog The Garden Of Eating. She had a similar experience to mine when she first tried the dessert- undeniable love. I’ll probably try to make it at home following her advice.
Do you like sticky rice with mango? Have you tried it with any crazy colors? Send me a picture!