Move Over Rice! The Many Uses of Sticky Rice in Thai Cuisine

April 10, 2023
IN Thai Cuisine

Gin khao yang?

This is a common Thai phrase, and it’s used when one person asks another if they’ve eaten – and it can be directly translated into English as “have you eaten rice, yet?”.

Rice plays a central role in Thai cuisine – and sticky rice comes in sweet and savory styles, and can be found at every Thai restaurant.

Keep reading to learn about its rich history.

How Sticky Rice Is Made

Sticky rice is a sensitive type of rice to make, it is usually made by steaming the rice as you cannot add too much water or it loses its sticky-ness. 

Sticky rice lacks amylose, a type of starch found in Jasmine and brown rice. That, combined with its lower water absorbency, is what makes the rice congeal and stick to itself.

The Origins of Sticky Rice

Rice is easy to carry and easy to store for a long time when uncooked. This, coupled with Thailand’s climate, is what roots it in the country’s history.

Also called “glutinous” rice, sticky rice originates from northern Thailand.

Traditionally, sticky rice is eaten with the fingers, and it’s not just a side dish. Good for soaking up sauces and the remains of a dish, sticky rice is sometimes used as an edible utensil.

One of the reasons it’s popular is because it’s a better source of energy than white rice. And that’s why it remains a staple of all kinds of dishes – sticky rice is found in desserts and breakfast foods as well as evening meals.

Thai Sticky Rice Dishes

Many Thai recipes use sticky rice and while it’s a prerequisite for some, most restaurants will happily swap rice or noodles for sticky rice if that’s what you’d prefer.

Side Dishes

Sticky rice is a great choice for hearty eaters and pairs well with salads, Thai chili paste and grilled meat as a side dish. It balances the nutrients in a meal and helps to clean the palate between courses.

Main Courses

Grilled meat dishes like Moo Ping (grilled pork) or Gai Yahng (grilled chicken) are served with side dishes and make a great choice for sticky rice.

Seafood is another common choice, and crab, prawns, calamari, and scallops are found across Thai cuisine.

Finally, Thai curries are known for their incomparable blend of spices and vibrant flavors. Commonly known as green, red, yellow, panang, massaman curries, the absorbent properties of sticky rice make it an ideal companion for any curry dish.


The most popular dessert dishes served with sticky rice are fruits and coconuts. These sweet and savory dishes are creamy and sticky, and blend a variety of textures and flavors together that aid with digestion and balance a two or three-course meal perfectly.

Black sticky rice is another fan favorite, which combines a unique sweet glutinous rice with coconut milk that has a dark purple/black look.

Find Your Favorite Thai Dish

Are you hungry for sticky rice, yet? The unique texture of the glutinous rice makes it a popular staple from starter courses to desserts and if you haven’t tried any before, it’s about time you did.Do you live in Washington state and love Thai food? Click here to browse our available restaurants in and around Seattle to book an authentic Thai dining experience.

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