My Thai: Sticky Rice Burgers

Leela Punyaratabandhu

For these quirky burgers, cooked sticky rice is formed into two round disks and used in lieu of bread buns. Sticky rice burgers have been available at convenience stores throughout Thailand for a while. I just discovered them on my recent trip to Bangkok.

Fearing the worst, I approached my first sticky rice burger with apprehension. To my surprise, it was pretty good—at least good for a refrigerated packaged food that's heated in the microwave. But the homemade version is much better. You can also play around with different flavors that pair with sticky rice. I recently made some lamb burgers with spices from the famous meat salad, laap (larb). But the possibilities are endless.

One thing I need to emphasize as there still seems to be a lot of confusion over what Thai sticky rice is: Thai sticky rice is not the same as the various kinds of short grain rice used in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, etc. cuisines. It's the kind of long grain glutinous rice used heavily (and almost exclusively as a staple) in Southeast Asia. It needs to be cooked with vapor, not in water.

One of the unique things about this type of rice is that, when properly cooked and lightly kneaded with your fingers, the kernels stick together but not to your hands. I could have picked up this sticky rice burger with my hands without the parchment wrapper you see in the photograph. This would be difficult to do had the buns been made from the kind of short grain sticky rice which you cook in water. So use the right type of rice for this. To be on the safe side, when you're at your local Asian grocery store, ask for sticky rice from Thailand, khao niao (ข้าวเหนียว).

For instructions on how to make these sticky rice burgers, go here.