You Should Always Soak Sticky Rice Before Cooking It. Here's Why

Sticky rice is just one of those things that seem so simple, yet it always seems to have that extra something at a restaurant that you just can't recreate at home. Is it the kind of rice? Something added to the water? A special rice cooker? Luckily, we have these answers for you, and more. With a few tricks of the trade, you, too, can have sublimely sticky rice, ready to be dipped in sauce in little parcels or nestled next to meat and fresh herbs.

Sticky rice is a staple of Thai or Lao food and is also known as "glutinous" or "sweet" rice (via Serious Eats). You can make flavored sticky rice, like coconut (YUM), but the classic plain version is usually used to accompany everything from Thai larb with lettuce cups to peanuts and mango (via The New York Times and The Spruce Eats). Sticky rice, unlike most long grain white rices, is truly steamed instead of boiled and requires a little extra planning. It's so worth it. However, if you skip certain steps, such as soaking your rice, you'll end up with a sticky situation instead of delicious sticky rice.

Why soaking is so important

Sticky rice is made with "glutinous" rice, which looks opaque before it's cooked, and becomes translucent and sweet when steamed (via New York Times). You can use a steamer basket or another type of strainer with cheese-cloth on the stove to make true sticky rice, but here's the key: you must soak it. Serious Eats recommends rinsing the glutinous rice a few times in bowls of freshwater with a strainer to avoid making one giant rice clump, then setting it in another bowl of water overnight. The soaking allows the rice to absorb enough moisture and cook evenly — you'll have totally undercooked rice without this step (via Thai Table). 

Once the rice has properly soaked, line your steamer basket or strainer cheesecloth, and press the rice in. From there, it's as easy as covering the rice and setting it over a few inches of boiling water for 10 minutes. Then — voila! — sticky rice for a crowd. One commenter on the New York Times' sticky rice recipe recommends a quick peanut sauce for dipping clumps of sticky rice: it has coconut milk, red curry, peanut butter, fish sauce, and tamarind paste. Have you ever heard of anything so delicious? We think not.