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Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

  I'd forgotten how much I like the process of things.  Things meaning food, and the making thereof.  I feel like coming out of school I was a directionless, lifeless mess that needed a solid month of detox.  Finals and life happenings whooped me real good.

  This meant that my kitchen suffered a little bit.  I had just dropped a solid amount of money on a new computer, I was spending a couple of weeks working 2 jobs while I was working on putting in my two weeks as a barista, and then I spent a lot of time stressing out over how on earth I was going to make a living off of tips by shoving burgers at people's faces.  Also, do I know where or whom I'll be living with once my lease ends in August?  Nope.  Sure don't.

  I'm figuring it out.

  But all that crud aside, this is my mental health summer.  Even though I'm working 6 days a week my schedule is still fairly flexible, and Sundays are always my chill day.  And that's been hella nice.  Once my brain calmed down and I got back into a yoga routine, I started to relax a bit more.  I've been making time for friends and fam, but also learning to enjoy time by myself.

  And so I've gotten back into the process.  It started with a humble loaf of banana bread that I brought into work with me one night.  Servers and bartenders alike gobbled it up, and it made me remember how much I love making and sharing kitchen creations.  It also made me remember the summer I spent in Arizona, where I made a whole lot of creations but had very few people to share it with.  Backtracking to those days, sticky rice and mango came up.  I distinctly remember my aunt leaving the recipe out for me when she was at work, and being unemployed and bored, naturally I made it.

  If you recall, this dessert was not only delicious and perfect for a hot summer day, but it was also the icebreaker between me and and basically the only friend I made that summer, Francesco. Remembering all that was humbling, very humbling.  It also reawakened my creative spark.  Immediately I was off, hunting through Woodman's for the absolute perfect rice like a crazy lady.  And damn did it feel good to be back.

  So, by all means, wherever you are in your life this summer, make this rice.  Maybe take a heaping portion to your next door neighbor, even if he doesn't speak your language.  Maybe eat it for breakfast, cold and from the fridge, before you rush off to work.  I just can't tell you how therapeutic it is to wash rice, let the grains flow from your fingers, and then steam it.  This dessert is simple but it does take some time, so plan accordingly.

  I'm off to continue my summer meanderings, including but not limited to sunbathing, speaking broken Spanish thank you's to the kitchen staff and dishwasher for making tacos for the servers on slow Tuesday nights, nods of solidarity to fellow restaurant employees as we cross paths wheeling trash to the communal dumpsters, getting frustrated with bad tippers, wrestling with class schedules, creating fantastic inside jokes with new friends, etc.

  Take after this rice and soak up these lovely summer days while you can.

Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango
Yield: serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups glutinous (sweet) rice*
  • 1 1/3 cups well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly (or shredded coconut is also delicious for a topping)
  • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin slices (at least 24)
*Rice should be quite opaque, meaning it's not as translucent as other grains.  That being said, don't stress about it too much, any good white, short-grain rice will do in a pinch. The brand I used was Three Horses Sweet Thai Rice.

In a medium bowl wash rice well in several changes of cold water until water is clear (Mine never got totally clear, but after about 8 washes there was a noticeable difference in the clarity.). Cover the rice in cold water and cover with plastic wrap, let soak overnight at room temperature.

Drain rice well in a fine mesh sieve (Alternatively, a colander and cheesecloth also works well.). Set sieve over a large deep saucepan of simmering water (sieve should not touch water) and steam rice, covered with a kitchen towel and a lid, 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender (check water level in pan occasionally, adding more water if necessary). 
While rice is cooking, in a small saucepan bring 1 cup coconut milk to a boil with 1/3 cup sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and remove from heat. Keep mixture warm.

Transfer cooked rice to a bowl and stir in coconut-milk mixture. Let rice stand, covered, 30 minutes, or until coconut-milk mixture is absorbed.  Rice may be prepared up to this point 2 hours ahead and kept covered at room temperature.

While rice is standing, in cleaned small pan slowly boil remaining 1/3 cup coconut milk with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Transfer sauce to a small bowl and chill until cool and thickened slightly.

To serve, mold 1/4 cup servings of sticky rice on dessert plates. Drizzle desserts with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds or coconut. Divide mango slices among plates.

Sources: Lightly adapted from epicurious.com