Om is an inquisitive foodie who likes to share recipes that everyone can enjoy.
This article is a humble tribute to both of my grandmothers: the late Grandma Prasop who loved to eat khao tom mud so dearly, and Grandma Paan who's still alive and enjoys making this delightful Thai dessert at special family gatherings.
In a nutshell, khao tom mud is a sticky rice dessert, stuffed with banana and wrapped in banana leaf. It requires only four ingredients and involves four basic steps: soaking the rice, cooking the rice with coconut milk and sugar, stuffing and wrapping, and finally steaming.
Grandma Paan used to sell khao tom mud back when she had a little restaurant. She has made it so many times that she could probably make it with her eyes closed. As a youngster, I would offer her a helping hand whenever I gave her a visit. Although I was more like an inept enthusiast than a useful assistant, she let me be a part of it anyway while she remained in charge of most of the cooking. The only responsibility she trusted me with was sticky rice wrapping, which I actually found to be a super amusing thing to do.
Anyway, now living thousands of miles away from home, I have to make khao tom mud myself from start to finish. I'm still not an expert in the art of khao tom mud like Grandma Paan, but hey, my version of this Thai dessert is pretty yummy. I hope you give it a try sometime!
Ingredients (for About 4 Pieces of Khao Tom Mud)
- 1 cup uncooked glutinous rice
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 baby bananas, peeled
- a pinch of salt
Baby bananas are a mini banana variety. In Thai, we call them "kluay kai," which literally means "egg bananas." You can find them at most Asian grocery stores.
If they are nowhere to be found in your neighborhood, however, use a medium-sized regular banana instead. First halve it lengthwise, then halve each slice crosswise.
Other Things You Will Need
- 1 whole banana leaf
- 8 rubber bands or thin pieces of rope
Banana leaves can be found in most Asian supermarkets, in the frozen food section. If you can't find them, aluminum foil is a good alternative.
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- Soak sticky rice in water overnight for at least for 3 hours. This will help quicken the cooking process, as it causes the rice to get tender faster. Each brand of glutinous rice is different. Some may require a longer soaking time than the others. From my experience, 3 hours should be good enough for most brands.
- Heat one cup of coconut milk in a saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat. Bring to a boil.
- Drain the rice and add it to the coconut milk. Turn the heat down to low and stir constantly. Once the mixture starts to thicken, add the rest of the coconut milk, sugar and salt, then continue to stir the mixture together.
- Keep stirring until the rice gets slightly more tender and absorbs all the coconut milk. The best way to check if the rice is ready is to taste it. It should still be a bit hard, not completely cooked. This whole process usually takes around 20-30 minutes.
- Remove the coconut rice mixture from the stove. Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes.
How to Wrap It
- Clean the banana leaf by wiping it with a damp towel. Remove the middle rib, then cut it into 8 pieces ( about 6" x 8" each).
- Layer two pieces of prepared banana leaf together. You may use only one layer if you prefer. I always use two layers, because banana leaf can easily break and may cause some of the coconut sticky rice to leak out of the pouch during the steaming process.
- Put about 3 tablespoons of coconut sticky rice onto the banana leaf. Put a baby banana on the rice, then top it with another 3 tablespoons of the rice mixture.
- The wrapping is very simple. Just fold both sides to the center, one overlapping the other. Then fold the top and bottom ends to the center. Secure your banana leaf pouch with two rubber bands. Traditionally, khao tom mud would be tied with thin pieces of rope, but as a lazy chef, I find rubber bands to be a wonderful alternative!
- Repeat the process with the rest of the sticky rice mixture.
- Arrange the khao tom mud pouches in a hot steamer. Any type of steamer is fine. My grandma loves to steam her khao tom mud in a bamboo steamer, but I always steam mine in a rice cooker. The size of the steamer also doesn't matter. As long as you can fit all the pouches into it and close the lid completely, it will work.
- Steam for about 30-45 minutes. When they're ready, the pouches should slightly puff up and become firmer. You can check the doneness by pressing the pouches with your finger. Be very careful, though; they are hot! Also, watch out for the hot steam when you first open the lid. If you're not sure when to take the pouches out, just steam them for an hour. It's better to overcook than undercook them. Plus, khao tom mud doesn't usually get overcooked that easily. If you cook it a little too long, it'll just be slightly dry. If you don't cook it long enough, however, it will fall apart and not work out at all.
- Take your khao tom mud out of the steamer and set aside for about 10 minutes. Remove the banana leaf wrap right before serving.