Thai Rice comes in two distinct varieties - Jasmine rice and Sticky rice.
Jasmine rice is also known as fragrant rice, aromatic rice, jasmin rice, scented rice or hom mali in Thai. It is famous around the globe as it has a distinctive texture, aroma and appearance. The grains of this type of rice are translucent when uncooked, but after cooking they become opaque and white. Their fragrance is similar to Indian basmati rice and the Thai name (hom mali) for Jasmine rice translates into ‘smell like a Jasmine flower’.
There is no salt used in the preparation of Jasmine rice. Therefore the dishes that accompany this type of rice are usually quite spicy. This type of Thai rice can be found in many guises in the everyday Thai food such as rice soup (a common breakfast dish), fried rice (popular at lunchtime), and rice paper (used for spring rolls). Also many noodles and traditional Thai snacks are made with rice flour.
Jasmine rice has only recently been cultivated in Thailand, within the last one hundred years. High in fibre and containing vitamins B1, B2, niacin, carbohydrates and protein with no gluten, jasmine rice is nutritional. It is also rich in minerals such as iron, calcium and phosphorous.
Thai sticky rice originally came from the Northeast area of Thailand where it has been the staple diet for a long time. Unlike jasmine rice, sticky rice can be grown without having to flood the fields with water. It is also known as glutinous rice.
Traditionally sticky rice is eaten with your hands, rolled into a small ball. It is then dipped into spicy sauces or eaten as an accompaniment to famous Thai dishes such as Thai barbeque chicken. It can be sweetened with coconut milk and palm sugar and makes a great dessert served with tasty ripe Thai mangoes.
To prepare sticky rice, you will need a traditional Thai sticky rice steamer which consists of a conical shaped bamboo basket which rests upon a spittoon shaped metal pot filled with boiling water. It must be pre-soaked before cooking for a minimum of four hours, or left overnight to soak. The soaked rice is then placed in the bamboo basket and covered with a pot lid which rests an inch or two above the rice. The bamboo basket is then set over the boiling water to steam through until cooked. The cooking time varies on how long the sticky Thai rice had been pre-soaked for. When cooked the rice should be firm, but not hard inside.