This pandan sticky rice dessert, or xoi la dua, is great blend of sweet, salty, and nutty flavors. Glutinous rice is used for this, not just regular rice that you can make sticky! The main flavor comes from pandan leaves, which is found in many Vietnamese desserts. These leaves have a wonderful, intoxicating aroma I’d say is a contender among my other favorites like bread, beer, and coffee.
You can go 100% pandan leaves for this recipe, but you will be hard-pressed to find recipes that don’t use some extract. We’ll do the same in this recipe, and use some pandan extract. This always feels like cheating to me, but it really makes it a lot easier and cheaper. It also adds a punch of color difficult to achieve with only a dozen pandan leaves.
You can find pandan leaves in the freezer, but some Vietnamese markets will carry them fresh. Go for darker green leaves, since they’re more mature and will impart a stronger aroma. The greener leaves will also give us more color for the rice to absorb.
As for the coconut cream, don’t mess around with the cheap stuff just to save 50 cents. Use Savoy brand (preferred) or Chao Koh if you can since they are less diluted. Make sure its coconut cream and not coconut milk! Check out how it sticks to the spoon below:
Choose a steamer with holes small enough so your rice won’t fall through. If the holes are too big, just line the steamer tray with loose cloth, such as cheesecloth.
You want to get the steamer on high heat first, so the water hits a boil. Then lower the heat until the water maintains a low boil (and some steam, of course!).
After adding the coconut milk mixture to the rice, gently mix it in so you don’t break smash the rice.
Top with freshly grated coconut and sesame topping. This dessert isn’t complete without the sesame topping–I love to pile it on! Add the topping right before serving so you can keep the sticky rice in your fridge for up to a week.
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