2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

Who Doesn’t Like Mangoes and Sticky Rice?

Who Doesn’t Like Mangoes and Sticky Rice?

Mangos in Bangkok

Sticky rice and fresh mangos didn’t sound particularly appealing at all. Sweet, fresh mangoes, perfectly cubed, perched delicately atop a little mound of glossy sticky rice, with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds? Perfectly lovely elements on their own, but which in my mind just didn’t belong together.

It wasn’t just a matter of seemingly mismatched flavors in a single dish; it was also the matter of texture. Cool, tingly, smoothness from the saccharine sweetness of the mangoes, placed alongside the textured, granular, almost-gloopy fattened feel of grains of rice held together by their own starch? No, I was really not feeling it.

But it was nearly 5 p.m. After a whole day out walking the streets of Bangkok, I’d just returned to Khao San Road, a short distance away from my B&B. The air was heavy, thick with muggy moisture, and the fatigue from a day of wandering had long-drained me of every ounce of energy. It was teatime, and my body expected tea. But, that day, I knew I needed a hit of something sweet. So in the name of eating local, striking off yet another dish from the must-eat list for Bangkok, I bought myself a serving of fresh mango and sticky rice and a bright, almost-neon yellow passion fruit and mango spritzer that called out to me.

I poured the little pot of white milky liquid onto the pile of rice, not knowing if I was doing it right. It was a shot of mildly sweetened coconut milk, I was told. In a corner of my brain, I felt the fixed notions I held about sweet vs. savory relaxing a little already.

I hungrily scooped up a bit of the rice and piled on two little squares of mango.

As soon as I tasted it, all my trepidation gave way to a most pleasant burst of flavor and a surprising mish-mash of contrasting textures. I chased it with large swigs of the icy, pulpy sweet-tangy drink, and all was well with the world again.

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