Love of my life – Mango sticky rice



By Nethmie Dehigama

(The writer was craving this dessert at the time of writing this article.)

Mango sticky rice will definitely be my last meal request if I ever end up on death row. It will be the one dessert I will choose to be stranded on an island with. It would be the first sweet thing I would want after I wake up from a coma. My point is… this is my absolute favourite dessert.

The elements

The tantalising mango – Mangos are the height of luxury – you can’t change my mind. If you don’t like mango, you’re truly missing out and also probably not blessed with good taste buds. 

The scrumptious sticky rice – Rice is the epitome of Asian food, and glutinous rice is the ultra-pro-max version of our most-eaten grain. Tender, flavourful, and with the most satisfying texture, this is also probably why I enjoy sushi as much as I do.

The sweetened coconut cream – This is the icing on the cake, the ingredient X. It carries the essence of the tropics. Sweetened coconut cream is one magical flavour that we Sri Lankans are woefully under-utilising in our desserts and sweet treats, which is unbelievable considering the fact that we are surrounded by coconut trees. Let this article be the start of a local culinary revolution, I say, ambitiously and hopefully.

Now, put them all together in the right way, and you have mango sticky rice. Freshly sliced mango on top of the steaming glutinous rice drenched in thickened and sweetened coconut milk that has a dash of salt – this dish is hard not to love. The coconut cream is sweetened with sugar or jaggery, and also often flavoured with pandan leaves (rampe). Depending on whose recipe it is, there might be other toppings that elevate this simple dish too. 

The history

The dish is quite often traced back to Thailand, and is arguably one of their most popular desserts. Khao Niew Mamuang is a traditional summer dessert made with sticky (glutinous) rice, mangoes, coconut milk, salt, and sugar or palm sugar. However, neither mangos nor glutinous rice originated in Thailand. The dish is most likely the result of the amalgamation of different cultures over many years, which is why it is also enjoyed in other South and Southeast Asian countries. 

Mangos are indigenous to Burma and East Asia, and also have been grown in India for over 5000 years. Glutinous rice is a staple in Laos – which shares a border with Northeast Thailand. This also makes mango sticky rice a common dessert for Lao people of the Greater Mekong Subregion, where sticky rice has been cultivated throughout the history of its culture, food, and tradition.

The earliest history of mango sticky rice dates back to the late Siamese Ayutthaya period (1351 – 1767) and continues on until the reign of King Rama II, according to many traditional Thai food recipes. Recipes from the reign of Rama V also stated that this dish was to be consumed with fruits, presumably sweet mango. So, I guess it is safe to say that mango sticky rice has been with the Thai people for a very, very long time. But are we even surprised?

Where can you find it?

Generally, mango sticky rice can be found in most Thai restaurants. I personally have tried the one at Cinnamon Lakeside’s Royal Thai, Dao Krua Thai, Colpetty, and Brew Lounge (sadly temporarily closed at the moment – their mango sticky rice had jaggery which gave it that extra ‘oomph’). It depends on if the mangos are in season, as well as the availability of glutinous rice which is a little difficult to import these days, so keep that in mind to avoid disappointment. 

Have you tried sticky rice, and do you like it as much as I do?