Red Sticky Rice . . . that's not so sticky

Clockwise from top left: Jasmine White Rice, Riceberry, Red Sticky Rice, Jasmine Red Rice

We sell four types of rice here at Adams Organic: Jasmine White, Jasmine Red, Riceberry and Red Sticky Rice. One of our customers, Alex, bought some of the red sticky rice, and had a question for us:

“I tried to cook like white sticky rice, soak it overnight and then steam it, but that didn't work. Could you tell me how it's supposed to be cooked? . . . I used a traditional Thai rice steamer, aluminum pot with a bamboo basket and the rice wrapped in cheesecloth, covered with a lid. I think I steamed for over 20 minutes with virtually no changes to the rice. I then decided to just cook the rice in water, which worked but it definitely wasn't sticky.”

To be honest, none of us at the store had ever cooked the red sticky rice, so this was a good chance to experiment. (I missed the window for asking my nephews to do this as a science fair project!)

I don’t have the woven rattan cone which is propped pointy-end into a pot of boiling water, with a metal lid over the rice, so that the rice is steamed. Alex used a cheesecloth to wrap the rice before placing it in the cone, which makes it easy to lift out the rice in one go. It’s also easier to wash the cheesecloth instead of the rattan cone.

But I had three other different pots* to use for cooking the sticky rice:


A) Simple electric rice cooker with an on/off button

B) Fuzzy Logic electric rice cooker with settings for regular rice, sticky rice and congee

C) A regular stock pot, with a steamer rack insert, and cheesecloth for wrapping the rice, cooked on top of the rack. (The physics of this would be most similar to the rattan cone set-up, because these are steamed. The rice cookers are cooked in water.)

1) Soaking

Sticky rice needs to be soaked overnight. I soaked it for about 6 hours.

2) Start Cooking

A) Simple rice cooker: I added one cup of soaked rice and 3 cups of water.

B) Fuzzy Logic rice cooker: I added one cup of soaked rice and 3 cups of water. I hadn’t looked closely at the inside of the pot, otherwise I would seen the mark for the water level for sticky rice (which would have been less than 3 cups of water.) (Someone told me if you use a fuzzy logic rice cooker, you only need to soak the rice beforehand for 2 hours.)

C) Stove top: I filled the stock pot with water, positioned the steamer rack, and put the cheesecloth bundle of ½ cup rice at about 2 ½” above the pot bottom. Heat set to the max, to get boiling going.

Pressed the on buttons and turned on the stove all at the same time.

4 Stop Cooking

A) Simple rice cooker switched itself off in 47 minutes. I let it sit for 5 minutes It was fully cooked, but the texture was a bit chewy, and slightly soggy (แฉะ). But after mixing it up, it was OK. The grains were slightly glossy, but not clinging to each other. The grains were mostly intact inside their brown coats.

B) Fuzzy Logic rice cooker switched itself off in 1 hour 20 minutes. It was definitely cooked, but very soupy because I had put too much water. A lot of the grains had burst open out of their brown coats.

C) Stove top: We turned the heat down after it reached boiling. I checked it after 60 minutes. It was done, but still a bit chewy-crunchy. I decided to steam on for another 60 minutes. The grains were drier looking than the batch cooked in the simple rice cooker.

5) Taste test: I took all three samples to have our Thai staff taste and evaluate. Most liked the simple rice cooker version best. “That’s how the texture is supposed to be, a little dry and chewy.”

Clockwise from top right: Red Stick Rice cooked in Simple rice cooker; steamed in cheesecloth; and fuzzy logic rice cooker (with too much water)

6) Is this really sticky rice?

Alex also asked:

“I have some black sticky rice at home as well . . . tried to cook which ended up reacting in a similar way, I couldn’t get it cooked . . . the way I cook white sticky rice. Could it be, however, that the red sticky rice is just regular red rice and not the glutinous variety?”

I was wondering the same thing. But it turns out that texture of red sticky rice is less sticky than the white sticky rice because it is unpolished. There’s less starch (which is what makes it sticky) released because the brown coat traps most of it within. For a stickier red rice, you would probably have to cook it with more steam so that the brown coating of the grain would burst open, and release more starch.

*The good thing about having friends who are hoarders is that they have multiples of every cooking gadget imaginable. The nice thing about friends who are generous is that they will gladly give you their extras when you move to a new house. That’s how I ended up with both a simple AND a fuzzy logic rice cooker!


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