Everyday around 3pm Mum and her sister would go to the market to buy the food that would be cooked that evening. Mum would love to go and look at the big sweet shop with about 30 varieties of traditional Thai desserts – ‘they are all yummy – every single of them!’ (Yes, that’s exactly how she said it). If there was money left over from the food shop, she and her sister would buy sweets for themselves and eat them when they got home. Kao nieow dut was one of Mum’s favourites, because she loves sticky rice. When I was a kid, I’d get very excited whenever we had it. Nothing can compare to the smooth hard surface of the grains, the feel of it in my fingers, and the chewiness of each mouthful. As a dessert, it is softer and drenched in salty coconut milk. The most popular sticky rice dish is Kao nieow mamuang – sticky rice with mangoes, and the most popular places have queues for this. This is one of the desserts we love, that we don’t make if we’re not in Thailand, as the mangoes just aren’t the same. Mum has taunted me over the phone with this, and it is agony being in cold England, hearing someone in Bangkok casually tucking into their kao nieow mamuang, and gloating about it. What we can make a lot of when not in Thailand is Kao nieow dut – a layer of sticky rice mixed with haang gati – this is the thin part of the coconut milk, (as opposed to hua gati – the ‘head’) and mixed with salt. All Thai desserts use salt, because it balances out the sugar and really lifts the flavours just as it does in a savoury dish. On top of the slice is a thick layer of hua gati (the thickest part of the coconut milk) mixed with rice flour and left to set. We cut it into squares and leave it in the kitchen to eat as a snack. The other favourite is Kao nieow na gachee, which is black sticky rice steamed and mixed with hua gati and then served with a sticky grated coconut mixture and coconut cream topping. We eat a lot of this, as it keeps well and is an easy to eat, sweet and filling snack.
For the Kao nieow dut:
1/2 cup white sticky rice
1/2 cup haang gati – the thin part of the coconut milk
Pinch of salt
For the topping:
1/2 cup hua gati – the thick part of the coconut milk at the top of the can
2 Tbsp rice flour
1/4 cup raw sugar
Scant tsp salt
Wash the rice until the water runs clear if not using organic sticky rice, as there can be a strong chemical residue. Soak the rice for two to three hours and place into a dish suitable for steaming, around 4×4 inches, and steam for 10 minutes.
Mix the salt into the haang gati, and pour this over the rice when just cooked.
Leave the rice to cool while sitting in the steamer and prepare the topping.
Mix all ingredients for the topping in a saucepan and bring to a boil and then simmer on a medium heat until it thickens. This takes around five to ten minutes.
Remove the rice from the steamer and pour the topping in an even layer over the rice and leave to set and cool, which takes around an hour. Cut into four squares with a hot knife and serve at room temperature.
For the kao nieow na gachee you can use either white or black sticky rice, soaked together over night. If you use black you still need to mix a small amount of white rice in to help with the stickiness. You will make a nam gati to mix into the rice, to be topped with the na gachee.
1 cup black sticky rice
1/3 cup of white sticky rice
1/2 cup hua gati
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raw sugar
To make the nam gati, place the hua gati, salt and sugar into a saucepan on a medium heat to dissolve the sugar and salt. Leave to one side.
Place the rice in a rice cooker or slow cook with an additional two inches of water covering the rice. Cook until the water is dry and check to see that the rice is soft.
Pour the nam gati over the rice and cover to absorb the flavours.
Now to make the na gachee.
1 1/2 cups fresh shredded coconut or 1 1/2 cups of dried shredded coconut
1/2 cup haang gati
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
Place all ingredients into a saucepan and combine over a high heat until the mixture becomes sticky and dry.
1/2 cup hua gati
1/2 tsp salt
Heat in a saucepan until the salt has dissolved.
Place two big tablespoons of the black rice in a bowl or on a plate, with a tablespoon of the sweet and sticky na gachee on top, then pour the salty gati over this. This is classic Thai comfort food, and another one of our treats that keeps us going through the day.