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Technique for steaming rice

I want to try a recipe for sticky rice with mangoes. The recipe calls for steaming the rice which is something I have never done. I don't have a steamer. It does say you can use a stockpot or dutch oven but doesn't give you any more info. I'm thinking a metal colander maybe over the pan and cover with foil, or would it need a tight fitting lid? Will the rice not fall through the holes? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated

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  1. I use a fine mesh strainer over a saucepan but I don't cook for a crowd. The lid fits close but not tight. If you went the colander route, you could line it with cheesecloth to prevent the rice from falling through the holes (some of the rice would probably stick to the cloth, so take that into account when measuring).

    1. Try something similar to cheesecloth. In Japan you can find a thick cloth that has holes in it, specifically for steaming mochigome (sticky rice). If you live near a Japanese market you should be able to find it.

      The following link is in Japanese, but you should be able to see the photos of what the cloth looks like when it is used for steaming. (musu is the verb in Japanese to steam)


      1. I'd go with a metal strainer. Or use your collander and line it with cheesecloth or even a clean dishtowel. It's pretty close to the traditional way of wrapping the rice in cheesecloth and steaming it in a thai steamer.

        1. Cheesecloth doesn't work for sticky rice. The grains in contact with the cloth stick to it and become mushy while the rest of the rice doesn't cook. The traditional Thai steamer is a bamboo cone which fits over a metal base. The more modern version is a bamboo pan which you suspend over a pot of boiling water. It looks like a Chinese steamer in miniature. My Thai friend uses a metal steamer in a pot of water but I've been told the rice gets mushy if you don't watch it carefully.

          I've tried all of these and find them a PITA. I ended up microwaving it just as I do all my rice. It still has to be soaked for several hours before cooking. I rinse the rise briefly, add the water I will use for cooking and let it soak, usually overnight. Then it goes into the microwave. For about a cup of rice it takes about 10 minutes.

          1. However you decide to steam the sticky rice, you must wash the rice and soak the rice overnight. Disgard any left-over water, this will help the steaming process a lot faster.

            1. I've cooked sticky rice in a rice cooker, so your idea for a colander should work fine. However, I make regular rice all the time on the stove in an analon pot, so if you have a small heavy bottomed pot you could try that too. Soak the rice, bring the water to a boil, turn down to a simmer immediately, cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until cooked. If you keep the heat at the lowest possible setting it's hard to overcook the rice even if you let it go for 20 minutes. I lowered the number because sticky rice is more likely to burn. I have a glass lid on my pot, so I just look for when it's done.

              theSauce is right: sticky rice must be soaked overnight or at least a couple of hours before being steamed or you'll end up with tough centers.

              1. Thanks so much for all the info. A mesh strainer, why didn't I think of that? The recipe does call for soaking the rice for 3 hrs or overnight. Can't wait to try this!

                1 Reply
                1. re: ChrisKC

                  >The recipe does call for soaking the rice for 3 hrs or overnight.

                  Three hours sounds a little on the short side. I usually aim for a minimum of six.

                2. I've developed a method for the microwave that works for me. Soak 2 Cups of rice (make sure to use the correct sweet rice) for 1 hour in tepid water in a bowl that will fit in a microwave. The rice will absorb lot of water so make sure to cover the rice with at least an inch of water. After an hour the water should be level with the top of the swollen rice (you may need to add a bit more while it is soaking).

                  Cover with saran wrap and microwave for 8 minutes. Remove the rice from the microwave and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes (careful - it will be really hot!) One it has cooled down a bit spread the rice out onto two sheets of saran wrap (1/2 on each) cover each with another sheet of saran wrap (i.e. rice sandwiched between sheets of saran wrap) and smooth into sheets of rice that are about 1/2 inch thick. The rice will keep for a day or two on the counter - do not refrigerate.

                  This recipe needs a bit of refining and you may need to let the rice dry for a few minutes before adding the second sheet of saran wrap and smoothing.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: antjones9

                    Why the saran wrap? I microwave all rice, regular as well as sticky and never have to do anything like this. As I posted above, I soak usually overnight, then microwave. Sticky rice cooks faster than regular rice so it's usually done in about 10 minutes. A minute or two before I think it's done, I stop the microwave and check the rice by fluffing lightly with a fork and sometimes tasting a grain. Sometimes it's done and all I do is cover until we're ready to eat it, other times it goes back into the microwave for the rest of the cooking time.

                    If I have to do large amounts of rice (of any kind) I use my electric rice cooker but it's not worth the bother for less than about 4-6 servings.

                    1. re: cheryl_h

                      I find that spreading the rice on saran wrap allows me to achieve the right level of moisture in the rice. The microwave method is not an exact science and it can come out a bit to gummy at times. By spreading it out you can gauge the consistency/moisture content better and let it dry a bit if necessary.

                      A traditional thai steamer is best but until I get around to getting one I have come up with a method that works in my kitchen.

                      On a related note, I grew up in Hawaii where my best firend was Thai. His mother used to cook up a rather large batch of sticky rice once or twice a week and leave it at room temperature in a special storage basket. It was a readily available snack. Here is a picture of what a traditional storage basket looks like:


                      1. re: antjones9

                        Oh, now I see. I have the basket in your link. Also the traditional Thai steamer, the conical bamboo basket one. And several Chinese bamboo steamers and a couple of metal steamers. And an electric steamer. I got a little carried away in my pursuit of perfect sticky rice. I believe most Thai restaurants use automatic rice cookers to make it - at least the ones I've seen close up.

                        1. re: cheryl_h

                          I think that buying a traditional steamer would probably be a lot simpler than my jerry-riged method. I'll put it on my to do list for the weekend. I'm sure I can pick one up in chinatown without breaking the bank. It's about time I got around to it.

                  2. The recipe is one I'm testing for leitesculinaria.com and you are supposed to follow the recipes exactly to report back on. It calls for steaming the sticky rice but I will definitely have to try it again using the microwave method. I've never done any kind of rice in the microwave so it will be interesting to see the results. Thanks again.