Friday, March 7, 2014

Thai Rice Pudding

by Sheila Connolly

The English author A. A. Milne once wrote: 

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s perfectly well and she hasn’t a pain
And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

Easy: she doesn’t like rice pudding. I do. (BTW, A. A. Milne—yes, the Winnie the Pooh one—also wrote a mystery called The Red House Mystery. Even though it was successful, he never wrote another.) 

I did not grow up eating rice pudding. When I was in high school, somehow my mother stumbled on a recipe—I think in a Swedish cookbook—that was about as simple as it could be (put milk, cream, sugar and rice in a casserole, stir, and cook for a few hours), so that became a sort of staple, and I still make it.  

There are less simple variations. Noted chef Marco Pierre White has a signature rice pudding that is delightful (I tried it in Dublin), but I think he sneaks some white chocolate in there. Not a bad idea. The raspberry garnish is nice too. 
On another note, I collect exotic and obscure ingredients. I may never use all those ingredients, but it gives me great comfort to know that they’re there waiting for me, should I be struck by sudden inspiration or a craving for galangal or achiote. Amongst those ingredients are at least five varieties of rice: jasmine, Arborio, brown, black (also called Forbidden Rice), and the latest addition, sweet rice, also known as sticky rice, Thai rice, sushi rice or glutinous rice. Hey, I’ll try anything once! 

So here I am with a pristine unopened package of sweet rice, on a sub-freezing March day—what shall I do? Make rice pudding! Okay, I could try the old faithful recipe but substitute sweet rice, but where’s the fun in that? So I’m taking on something new: Thai Rice Pudding. (Yes, I have coconut milk in my larder too.) 

For this one, first you make the rice: 

2 cups sweet rice
3-1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (white or brown—your choice)
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Place the rice in a large pot and add 2 cups of water.  Let the rice soak for at least 10 minutes. Longer is fine. 
Rice soaking
Add the rest of the water plus the salt and stir well.  Place the pan over high heat and bring to a bubbling boil. Then reduce the heat to medium low. Partially cover with a lid (allow enough room for steam to escape). 

Boil gently for 15-20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, place the lid on tightly, and let the rice “steam” for 5-10 minutes. There’s no need to hurry—you do want the rice grains to soften completely. 
Rice cooked
Remove the lid and add the coconut milk, stirring until it is incorporated (it won’t take long).  Turn the heat on low and add the sugar and spices.  The rice will slowly absorb the coconut milk, and the result will be very thick. (And it gets thicker the longer it sits.) 

Rice with coconut milk added

You can experiment with this rice—try different spices, or none at all. Add some shredded coconut, or maybe raisins or candied fruit. Have fun with it! If there’s any left over, you’ll probably have to dilute it to serve it—it lives up to the name “sticky”!


The latest County Cork Mystery--and they do serve rice in Ireland!



  1. Comfort food with an international twist. Very nicely done.
    Thank you for not using "light" coconut milk. It sounded like a great idea, but it doesn't have the flavor or "mouth feel."

  2. I know what you mean, even though I had to wrestle the real stuff out of the can. And I refused to read the label to find out if it was better or worse for you than the equivalent amount of cream would be (my mother loved cream and would put it on vegetables).

  3. Ooh, I love rice pudding. Now you've reminded me to make it!

  4. I'm never quite sure what the difference is between some of the white rices. Love the black Forbidden Rice. How does the sweet rice compare to say, long grain rice?


    1. The whole advantage to the "sticky" rice is that is sticky. Long grain will probably work, but the finished product will be different.

  5. Yum!! Reading your two Irish books with friends as our St Patrick's Day treat. Think I'll make the rice pudding as a treat for our taste buds!!

  6. Sheila, my husband adores rice pudding. I'm not a fan, but I'll certainly try this for him! As a girl, I'd memorized the entire Milne poems. They were (and still are) my favorites! I remember my mother reading them to me, too.

    Daryl / Avery

    1. Ditto--and can still quote them. And you might have noticed that I named one of my favorite characters James Morrison.

  7. Now I know my my rice pudding was always a failure. I didn't know you had to cook the rice first. Love you love your books.

  8. Speaking on behalf of Mary Janes everywhere, this one's a winner, Sheila.

    Thanks for Rice 101 too!


    MJ (aka ...)