I’m doing a little bit of experimenting in the garden and trying my hand at growing sticky rice this year. I can’t get sticky rice out of my mind. Most of us are familiar with sticky rice mango. The coconut sticky rice also known as sunkaya showcases a salty sweet coconut-y sticky rice. Obviously, the mango version is served with mangoes. Occasionally it is made with custard and that’s the version that I grew up with since eggs were always available.
This is a recipe for a super aromatic version of sunkaya. In sunkaya, you can add pandan to the coconut sauce and that makes the sauce aromatic, but in this recipe, we are infusing the rice with the pandan flavor. You get that pandan flavor in every bite. It my opinion, it is the best smelling rice ever and the aroma is more prominent once the rice has cooled. I hope I get a decent harvest because I would love to try this with fresh sticky rice.
My hands had that sweet aroma after handling the rice. I would jump on a pandan scented soap, but that would probably make me crave desserts all the time. So that could backfire.
• Excess pandan juice – Set aside any excess pandan juice and use it when additional liquid is needed for soaking the rice. This is typically needed when soaking sticky rice for a longer period of time. Don’t let your rice dry out.
• Pandan extract or pandan paste, are they needed? – Yes, if you are using the frozen pandan. The pandan leaves that I used had a best by dated of two weeks from now and they were not as aromatic as fresh pandan leaves. I would choose pandan extract over pandan paste in this recipe, but if you were to use pandan paste, using only about ¼ of a teaspoon and skip the food coloring. Pandan paste has super-staining color included.
• Saucy – Add a little bit of sauce at a time. If you add warm sauce to the warm rice it will soak up better. In my video, I let the rice cool a little too much as I was distracted by beautiful weather and gardening activities. 😊 The tapioca starch is used to thicken the sauce so that it can double as a topping as well. It’s really not needed. You can skip the tapioca and it will work just fine. Check out the traditional sunkaya.
• Sweet and salty – I’m sticking with the ratio of sugar and salt that I had previously as it took a few tries before I found the balance of sweetness and salt that I like. Flavors can be adjusted to your liking, of course.
Pandan Sticky Rice
3 cups uncooked sticky rice (rinsed several times)
6-8 pandan leaves (fresh or frozen)
5-6 cups water
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 (13.5 oz) coconut milk or (14 oz) coconut cream
1 tablespoon tapioca starch (optional)
1 teaspoon pandan extract (optional, but more than likely required when not using fresh pandan)
1 to 2 drops of green food color (optional)
Toasted sesame seeds
Coconut sauce made with this recipe
• Cut the pandan leaves into a blender.
• Blend/puree the pandan leaves and water for about a minute until you get homogenously green mixture.
• Pour the pandan juice over a sieve onto the uncooked rice. Add the pandan extract and food coloring if using.
• Let the rice soak for at least 4 hours or overnight.
• Drain and steam the sticky rice in steamer basket or in cheesecloth in a steamer for about 30 mins. Make sure to flip and stir the rice about halfway through for even cooking.
• Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, heat about half of the can of coconut cream or coconut milk, sugar and salt until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture boils (about 5-7 mins).
• Add tapioca starch to the rest of the coconut cream/milk to make a slurry. Then add the slurry to the saucepan with the rest of the coconut sauce. Let it cook for another minute or so longer until the sauce has thickened.
• Turn the cooked rice into a bowl or a platter and stir. This will evenly distribute the heat and water and prevent the rice from getting mushy.
• Place the rice a bowl with most of the coconut sauce mixture. Reserve the rest of the coconut sauce for topping. Serve with scraped coconut and/or toasted sesame seeds.