Steamed Sticky Rice

Serves 3 to 4


Sticky rice follows it’s own rules: it needs to be soaked prior to cooking, and it’s truly steamed (not boiled or simmered), but the results are well worth it. If you love South East Asian food there’s no replacing these slightly sweet, chewy morsels of sticky rice.

There are multiple traditional utensils for steaming rice, most notably a funky Thai woven straw basket and tall spitoon-shaped pot combination. While interesting to look at, this set up will overwhelm your kitchen if it’s short on storage space. Other methods for steaming rice include wrapping it or placing on top of cheesecloth, but if you’re not psyched about picking bits of sticky rice off of cloth then I recommend avoiding this method too. If you have a traditional stacked bamboo steamer use that (and layer the rice on parchment paper) or a rice cooker with build in steamer by all means use it, but my method of choice avoids all of that in favor of using kitchen equipment you may already have and probably use for dozens of other things anyway, so there’s no need to purchase any special equipment. This set up isn’t as pretty as a Thai basket, but it will get the job done.


The no-frills method I prefer is to steam sticky rice in a large fine mesh metal sieve that will fit comfortably (if not exactly) on top of a pot. I use a 7 1/2 inch wide sieve fitted on top of a 2 quart pot; when the sieve is on top of the pot partially filled with boiling water, I place a lid over the sieve. The fit of the lid and sieve is not exactly tight, but it’s sturdy enough to keep the steam in for about 20 minutes and keep the rice at least 3 inches away from the water, which is all that’s needed for perfectly steamed rice. You may already have a sieve and pot just like this, but if you don’t this set up will set you back less than $20 and both the pot and the sieve can be used to prepare hundreds of other dishes. You’ll find that removing the rice and any stray grains from the metal mesh is far easier on the rice (and your sanity) than picking it off a wicker basket or cheesecloth too.


1 cup white short grain sticky rice (sometimes called sweet rice)


1. Place the rice in a mixing bowl, cover with 2 inches of cold water and stir a few times with a chopstick. The water will look cloudy; carefully drain the water off and repeat this rinsing and draining several times or until the water looks almost clear (about 3 to 4 times). Cover with another 4 inches of water and set aside to soak for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Depending on the age of the rice, 2 hours may be enough time; rice will be ready to steam when an uncooked grain crumbles easily when bitten into. You can also put the rice to soak before leaving for work, and it will be more than ready when you come home.

2. Drain the rice into a fine mesh metal sieve. Fill a 2 quart pot with 3 inches of water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Fit the sieve on top of the pot, cover the sieve with the lid for the pot and steam the rice for 20 to 22 minutes. The rice is done when the grain look translucent, and completely tender (no crunchy cores), and are sticky and chewy.

3. Serve hot rice immediately. Keep warm on the table by storing in a tightly covered container. Sticky rice should be eaten as hot as possible as it will turn rubbery as it cools. Sticky rice can be re-steamed to return to it’s sticky former yumminess.