My Mum loves Thai black sticky rice coconut custard! And so do I!
Mum’s memories as a 10 year old girl in Bangkok take her back to a similar dish – Kao Nieow Na Gachee. Instead of custard, we use shredded coconut on top of a bowl of black sticky rice, sweetened with a coconut milk syrup. At the market Mum used to buy it wrapped in banana leaves. In Mum’s words ‘that is most beauuteeful dessert – every time I go to the dessert shop I will looking for that!’
Here is our recipe for Kao Nieow Dum Sangkaya…there is no part of this that is particularly difficult, it just takes patience to wait for everything to cool before moving onto the next stage. The hardest part of course is waiting for it to cool before cutting it into squares at the end.
For the rice:
1 cup of organic black sticky rice
1/2 a cup of organic white or Japanese whole sticky rice (without this the black rice is not sticky enough to set as a square)
Mix together and soak over night. The next day, pour off most of the water, leaving an extra centimetre over the rice. Using the same soaking water, slow cook in a rice cooker or on the stove top on a low heat for 1/2 an hour to 45 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is very soft. If the rice is too firm it will not hold together.
1/2 a cup coconut cream – reserve most of the thickest part (hua gati) for the custard
Pinch of sea salt
3 Tbsp coconut sugar, or 2 Tbsp unrefined sugar (either demerara, caster, or rapadura would do)
Place the above ingredients into a small saucepan and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes to dissolve the sugar. Don’t let it boil as the coconut will turn oily.
Pour onto the rice and stir in. Cover for 5 minutes to absorb the liquid.
Once cool, pack the rice mixture into square dishes, small enough to fit inside a steamer. You can pack the rice in up to 1/2 an inch thick. Pack it in firmly and put to one side. The rice must be very cool and firm before you add the custard on top to prevent it from coming away into the custard.
4 large eggs
4 heaped Tbsp hua gati, this is the thick, set part of the coconut milk at the top of the can when you open it. There should be plenty left over in the can after you take what you need. Warm gently to remove the lumps, then allow to cool
1 cup sugar or coconut sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla essence (or 2 pandan leaves if you can get them)
1 Tbsp rice flour to help it set, and so that it doesn’t collapse once cool.
Beat the eggs, coconut cream, sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric or hand whisk until the sugar has dissolved. You could even dissolve it on the stove with the hua gati to make it even easier to whisk into the eggs. My aunt does this bit by hand, as she uses the hard lumps of coconut palm sugar found in Thailand, and fragrant pandan leaves from the garden, squeezing them through the egg mixture to dissolve the sugar and add flavour to the custard. Taste for sweetness and flavour, adding more salt or sugar if needed. Take a small amount of the mixture and add to the rice flour to form a liquid. If necessary mix it over a dish of hot water to remove the lumps easily before adding this to the custard, and beating until thoroughly mixed.
To assemble and cook:
Bring the water in a large steamer to the boil. Once boiling, spoon a thin layer of the custard mixture on top of the rice and steam on a high rolling boil to form a set layer before pouring the rest of the mixture on. Once this has set, you can gently spoon on the rest of the custard to fill the dish. Doing this in two stages will keep the layers of rice and custard separate. If done all at once, the rice will float up through the custard and you won’t have the two distinct layers. Even if this happens it will still taste amazing, so don’t worry!
Quickly place into the steamer and steam for approximately 10 minutes until the custard has set. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.
The colour of ours is not as yellow as the ones you see in Thailand because we don’t use food colouring, and the unrefined sugar also makes it slightly darker, but definitely more nutritious. This is one of the best Thai desserts of all time!