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Sticky Rice in a Bamboo Tube, Kao Lam

I have fond memories of sticky rice in a bamboo tube—it looks so cool! At every festival in my village when I was growing up, there was a man who made and sold this Kao Lam. We would eat some at the festival then bring home a few for family members who couldn’t go. It is a perfect take-home food, since it is already packaged in a bamboo tube.

Sticky Rice in a Bamboo Tube, Cambodia

The sticky rice is cooked in a segment of bamboo, the kind that has a thin wall so the heat can penetrate to cook the rice inside the tube. After it is filled with the sticky rice ingredients, the bamboo is plugged with a piece of coconut husk wrapped with banana leaf to keep in the steam for cooking the rice. Then the bamboo tubes are placed over charcoal. When it is done, the outer skin of bamboo is removed and a thin wall left behind to protect the rice inside. All Southeast Asian countries have some version of this, and they are all cooked in a similar way. The photo below is from Cambodia. In Thailand this dish is called Kao Lam; in Malaysia it’s Lemang.

Thai Sticky Rice in Bamboo Sticks in Cambodia

If you like sticky rice with mango, you will like Kao Lam, too. I love the fact that when you peel the bamboo away (see photo below), the powdery fiber in the bamboo tube leaves a sheen. The rice comes out shaped like a stick and looks like it was wrapped in edible paper. The vendor in my village usually made three varieties: white sticky rice, black sticky rice, and white sticky rice with black beans.

How to open the bamboo tube

In America you can find cooked sticky rice that comes straight from Thailand in the frozen food section in Asian markets. But I would rather you try my sticky rice recipe below. I wrap it up in parchment paper, roll it into a cylinder, and bake it. It is delicious, has a very nice texture, and is as satisfying as the original.

During the summer of 2010, I taught Grilled Sticky Rice with Black Bean and Banana Stuffing in a Banana Leaf (Kao Neow Mad) in my Thai Grill class. Organizing my photos from my recent trip to Cambodia led me to this project, a Kao Lam version baked in the oven. It is not easy to cook sticky rice in a bamboo tube—only a few experts from each Thai village know how. Last August I created this adaptation, wrapping and rolling the sticky rice in pieces of parchment paper and then baking them. The results were good. It was easy, and the flavor and texture were satisfying. Then I made a lot of them in small packages and even put some in the freezer. I microwave them or reheat them in the oven and eat them for a protein snack before teaching my classes. In Thailand, most farmers eat sticky rice before working in the rice field.

Baked Sticky Rice and Black Bean Wrapped in Banana Leaf

Kao Neow Yang

Serveings: 8

2 cups Thai sticky rice, soaked in water for 3 hours or overnight, then drained (see note)
¾ cup coconut milk
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, optional
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned black beans, drained
8 (8×8) inch pieces of banana leaves or parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir sticky rice, coconut milk, water, sugar and salt in a large pan over medium heat. Stir until all coconut milk is absorbed. Stir in black beans and fold gently to mix.

Put equal amounts of the sticky rice mixture onto 8 banana leaves. Form the rice into a cylinder about 6″ long and lay it in the center of the leaf so that you have about 1 inch left on either end. Fold the banana leaf in half around the rice, then roll it around the cylinder; fold in both ends and secure them with a toothpick, poking down and then up, or you can twist the ends and tie them. When you are done, each bundle will make a round tube about 6 inches long and 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Grill for 5 minutes on each side until the sticky rice is translucent and cooked, or bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Pranee’s note:

In Thailand, recipes generally use one of two types of rice: jasmine rice or Thai sticky rice. The starch in rice is made up of two components, amylose and amylopectin. Jasmine rice has more amylose than amylopectin, giving it a puffy appearance, whereas Thai sticky rice has more amylopectin than amylose, creating its sticky texture. Both white and purple Thai sticky rice are long-grain rices with a firm grain and become sticky when cooked. They are tropical rices, and different from Japanese, Chinese or Mediterranean (Arborio and Valencia) rices, which have a medium or short grain and grow in temperate climates.

© 2010 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking class in Seattle areas, her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com

 

 

Outer layer of bamboo tube is removed

 

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