Khao Niao : The sticky-rice tale

Thailand is one of the Asian countries where people chiefly consume rice. The lives of the Thais have been closely bound to ‘Khao’ or rice since ancient times.
For the Thais, rice is not only important as the main food that they eat at every meal, but it also has cultural significance. The Thai people, especially farmers, believe that there is a goddess of rice or “Mae Phosop” who guards the rice plants and make them grow fine. The farmers thus hold ceremonies to worship the Goddess at different stages of rice planting.

Rice usually appears on the table at every meal. The Thais consider a meal incomplete without some nice hot rice even if there are exquisite Thai dishes on the table. Among varieties of rice one of the most famous is “Khao Niao” meaning sticky rice. Northeastern Thais traditionally eat glutinous rice as their staple food. It is called glutinous in the sense of being glue-like or sticky, and not in the sense of containing gluten.

Khao niao sangkhaya or Sticky Rice with Custard is a traditional Thai dessert. It is prepared with glutinous rice, egg custard and coconut milk. Khao niew sangkaya is served warm or either at room temperature. Sangkaya in Thailand was influenced by Portuguese cuisine.

Khao niao mamuang or Mango sticky rice is a traditional Thai dessert made with glutinous rice, fresh mango, palm sugar and coconut milk. Although originating in Thailand, it is consumed throughout the Indochina region of Southeast Asia, including Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It is usually eaten in the peak mango season, the summer months of April and May in Thailand.

Khao niao is one of the main ingredients in making the sour-fermented pork skinless sausage called Naem, or its northern Thai equivalent Chin som, which can be made from pork, beef, or water buffalo meat. It is also essential for the fermentation process in the northeastern Thai sausage called Sai krok Isan. This latter sausage is made, in contrast to the first two, with a sausage casing.


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