Rice; Southeast Asians cannot function without it. It is the main staple food in the region, so much so it is eaten at just about every meal. Did you know that there is a different variety of rice? Much like how potatoes can be mashed, baked, friend until crunchy or baked, rice can also be sticky. This is called glutinous rice. Or for simplicity’s sake let’s call it sticky rice. Just like its name, these grains of rice do actually stick to your hands. But don’t worry, it’s not glue. It is in fact a good companion to several types of food. You’ll love it! Just ask the Laotians and Thais.
So, what makes sticky rice, well, sticky? Some may be surprised to know that the grains look quite the same as your regular de facto rice. But the contents are actually quite different. They are cultivated without gluten, contains almost no amylase (a type of starch) but having high amounts of amylopectin (another type of starch).
The cooking methods are also different. Regular rice is boiled while sticky rice is steamed using a cone-shaped woven bamboo basket that almost looks like a conical hat. The bottom of the basket fits into a tall pot and a lid covers the top of the basket while the rice is being cooked over a burner.
But why steam? That’s because it keeps the rice dry, which in turn makes it sticky, rather than wet and gummy like non-glutinous varieties. The cooked sticky rice is then served in small round baskets with lids or in small plastic bags, both intended to keep the rice warm by having some of the warm vapor circulating around the rice.
The good thing about sticky rice is that it can be eaten with anything. Try it with chicken, pork, beef or even vegetable and soup dishes. And to really eat it like a local, stick your meat or veggies into the rice, roll it into a ball and enjoy. And yes, they use their hands, so dig in! Sticky rice can also be added with coconut milk and eaten as a dessert, usually with mangoes or durians.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s steamy, hot, sticky and ready to be eaten! And you sure will find lots of it with our Taste of Laos and even our Isaan Insight tour. And if sticky rice isn’t enough go for one of our Culinary Tours that will surely make you salivate like Pavlov’s dog.
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