Sticky rice and palm sugar cake

• MAKES 12 PIECES •

The Thais make amazing desserts. Locally known as khanom, they form a much-loved part of their diet. For this recipe, feel free to use clear pandan essence (not the lurid green stuff) instead of the pandan leaves, if it’s easier and more accessible. Around 1 teaspoon should do it, but add it a little at a time until you reach your desired taste. Southeast Asian and Indian shops sell the essence, or frozen pandan leaves are also fine to use.

400g (14oz/2 cups) sticky (glutinous) rice, soaked overnight in cold water to cover, drained well
250ml (81/2 oz/1 cup) coconut milk
225g (8oz/11/4 cups) shaved palm sugar (jaggery)
3 pandan leaves, bruised, tied together in a knot

Bring a saucepan of water, fitted with a steamer, to the boil over high heat. line the steamer with a clean tea (dish) towel. Place the rice in the tea towel, folding it over to enclose the rice. Cover the pan tightly and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender. Unwrap the rice and transfer it to a bowl.

Meanwhile, combine the coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan leaves in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is well infused. Discard the pandan leaves, add the rice and cook, stirring gently every now and then to break up the rice, for 12-15 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Cool slightly.

Lightly oil the base and sides of a 19cm (71/2 in)x15cm cake tin and line with baking paper. 

When cool enough to handle, transfer the rice to the tin, using wet hands to press it evenly into the tin. Cover the tin with plastic wrap then stand at room temperature for 1 hour or until completely cooled. 

Turn the rice out onto a chopping board and, using a wet knife as rice is very sticky, cut into 2 x 4cm (1 1/2 x 1 1/2 in) pieces and serve.


East: Culinary Adventures in Southeast Asia
By Leanne Kitchen, Antony Suvalko