Crisp Up Sticky Rice By Giving It The Grill Treatment

A classic dish in the Far East, sticky rice's appeal has as much to do with texture as flavor. True to its name, its sticky, chewy, and tender bite stands out from the separate fluffy long or short-grain rice popular around the world. Grilling sticky rice will add even more depth of flavor and texture, creating a wonderfully crispy and smokey exterior for its chewy, glutinous, sweet interior.

Grilling sticky rice is a common practice in many Southeast Asian culinary traditions and lends well to both sweet and savory profiles. Due to its sticky, cohesive nature, sticky rice is easy to mold and keeps its shape over the grill. In fact, grilling sticky rice creates a crispy exterior that effectively cements its shape and keeps it from falling apart with each bite. Many traditional grilled sticky rice recipes are skewered rice filets that you can eat like any skewered meat.

In addition to the delectable textural contrast, grilling sticky rice imparts a smokiness to complement both a sweet, nutty coconut milk foundation and a savory, salty elaboration. Charred bits of rice provide a slightly bitter finish for added sophistication. Furthermore, you can add starchy ingredients like taro paste, sweet beans, or meat to grilled sticky rice to create an all-in-one meal or show-stopping dessert. 

Different ways to grill sticky rice

You have many avenues for grilling sticky rice, and they all start with steamed glutinous rice. Once your sticky rice is cool enough to handle, you can form it into patties or squares and coat it in egg wash. The eggs will further bind the sticky rice while also adding a delicious savory richness to the nutty flavor of the rice. You can skewer the rice or cook the sticky rice rounds directly on the grill grates, forming charred markings for extra flavor and an impressive presentation. Savory grilled sticky rice filets would taste delicious with a garnish of fried scallions or garlic chips and a sweet soy dipping sauce.

In Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, grilled sticky rice is a popular street food made by wrapping stuffed sticky rice in banana leaves and grilling them slowly over hot coals. Thai traditions create a sweet dessert by stuffing bananas and other starchy fruits along with sticky rice into a conical-shaped banana leaf, then closing the top with a toothpick before placing it on the grill. In Indonesia, cooks use sticky rice similar to the way Mexicans use corn masa in tamales, sandwiching a savory filling of spiced meat or fish between two layers of sticky rice before wrapping them in banana leaves. The banana leaves char over the coals, infusing the sticky rice and its fillings with smoky flavor while retaining a moist and sticky interior.