The more I write about and experiment with food, the more I realize how lucky I am to have the kind of food background that I have. When I was little, all I knew was that I got to eat all sorts of fun stuff because of the folks my parents knew in the restaurant business and the meals we'd have with certain close friends. Now that I'm an adult I know I received a stellar food education that allowed me to hone my palette quite early in life so that I could go nuts once I grew up (still waiting for the growing up part, by the way... lol).
Case in point: my fascination with Thai food. One of our dearest family friends is from Thailand and during the few years he actually lived with us, he quickly immersed us in the rich culture and food of this amazing country. Whether it was a rich and fragrant soup he'd make from scratch, or a new experience at the best hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant he could find, we were always having some new exotic dish. Yum Pla Meuk (spicy calamari salad) and Som Tum (green papaya salad) were instant favorites, and once I could handle the whopping fire that heats up many Thai curries, I couldn't get enough of those either.
Despite trying what some would consider "strange" dishes while learning all about Thai food, I was always most intrigued by Thai dessert selections. Mysterious, gelatinous looking fruits mixed with tapioca pearls or crushed ice; custards made from things I, as a child, had not yet heard of, like mung beans; even poached eggs served with sweet, aromatic syrups would make an appearance at our table after a satisfying meal. My two personal favorites were the Thai coconut ice cream (so much better than conventional coconut ice cream; I highly recommend it) and the sticky rice with mango. Though I'd love to try my hand at the former, Poor Girl has yet to score an ice cream maker, so that one will have to wait awhile. But what I have been able to do is recreate this very simple, yet exotic dessert and shove it into tiny little shot glasses to make my latest dessert shot recipe.
Now, I'm not claiming that this is super authentic Thai cooking here; I know for a fact that it's not. But from Makeshift Moqueca to Cheater Chutney, I am always coming up with ways to cater to my more exotic tastes within my limited means. Traditional Thai sweet (or sticky) rice can be found at most Asian food markets, but I find that it's usually sold in such large bulk portions that it's not practical for me to buy it. Still, this recipe requires a certain type of rice; it's not like you can use your standard long grain varietal for it to work well. After doing a little bit of research, I found that many types of rice are similar to Thai sticky rice in terms of grain shape and consistency, so if you don't have access to the real stuff you can certainly do what I did and substitute another glutinous rice in its place. The two I would suggest are sushi rice or Arborio rice (the kind that's used in many risottos), because they both share the smaller, rounder grain shape as Thai sticky rice, as well as that important "sticky" quality.
Once the whole rice thing's been taken care of, all you need is coconut milk and some fresh mango and you're good to go! This dessert takes very little time to prepare and looks fabulous when served up in tiny shot glasses (I'm sure they'd be awesome at a dinner party). Plus you won't get as full! Trust me, it's its own meal when served in traditional portions. This version will be far easier on your tummy and your wallet.
Thai-Style Sticky Rice & Mango Dessert Shots (makes 8-10 shots; total cost per serving: $0.65)
1 c freshly cooked short-grain, glutinous rice (Arborio, Thai sticky rice or sushi rice are all good choices)
1-2 fresh mangos
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 T sugar
1/2 t salt
Fresh basil or mint leaves for garnish*
8-10 shot glasses (1-2 oz. in size)
Heat the coconut milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to avoid curdling. Bring to a low simmer, then add the sugar and salt and whisk together until combined. Remove from heat. Pour about 3/4 of the sweetened coconut milk onto the warm rice. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes or until the rice has completely absorbed the coconut milk. In the meantime, carefully peel and chop the mango into 1/2" pieces.
Assemble your dessert shots by putting about 1 tablespoon of sweetened sticky rice into each shot glass. Layer a generous amount of mango chunks on top, then add more sticky rice. Top each shot with a small amount of the remaining coconut milk. Garnish with a couple extra pieces of mango and a basil or mint leaf, and enjoy!
*If you can afford some or have some on hand, try mung beans or sesame seeds for a more traditional garnish.