Khao Tom Mad is a Thai street food made of sweet sticky rice cakes filled with banana, black beans and then steamed in banana leaf parcels. It's often confused with Khao Tom Mad. The difference between them is that the latter is not pre-cooked in coconut milk and therefore lasts longer without refrigeration.
There are over 20 different types of bananas in Thailand with the smaller, sweeter red bananas used in recipes such as this one.
Khao Tom Mad can be found in street markets all over Thailand. Eaten both as a sweet snack or as a meal in itself, the parcels are often given to monks as food offerings at the beginning of Buddhist lent (Khao Phansa). This marks the start of the three-month monsoon season; a time where the monks retreat to monasteries and concentrate on Buddhist teachings.
To make Khao Tom Mad, the sticky rice is first boiled with a mixture of coconut milk and sugar in the same way that a risotto is cooked -- slowly with the liquid added a little at a time until it's absorbed. The rice has to be stirred constantly so that it doesn't burn. Once the rice is cooked, it is molded into a little cake filled with banana and black beans. Finally, it is wrapped in a banana leaf and then steamed.
Steaming the cooked rice doesn't make it soggy. Instead it binds the rice together and makes it almost smooth. The steaming softens the banana, infusing the rice with its sweet scent.
I can't remember when I first ate Khao Tom Mad, but I've probably been eating it since I was around three. And since it's been with me my whole life, I didn't mind standing at the stove for 45 minutes patiently ladling the coconut milk into the rice.
Khao Tom Mad Recipe
1 2/3 cups sweet (glutinous) rice
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup of sugar
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup of dried black beans
2 medium bananas, halved
Several pieces banana leaf or aluminum foil
- Soak the rice in water overnight and then drain. Soak the black beans overnight, drain and then boil until soft (about 15 minutes).
- Combine the coconut cream, sugar and salt in a separate bowl and stir well until the ingredients are mixed.
- Put all of the drained rice in a heavy-based pot on low heat.
- Slowly add the coconut cream mixture a 1/4 cup at a time, all the while stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Keep stirring over the same heat until the rice is tender and the coconut milk is absorbed. This will take about 45 minutes to 50 minutes.
- Make sure the rice has absorbed all of the coconut milk and then let it cool.
- Time to steam. Place about 1 tablespoon of sticky rice on a rectangular piece of banana leaf or foil (about 12cm x 9cm).
- Press a few black beans into the rice. Place a piece of banana on and then cover with more rice.
- Fold up the leaf or foil and then and tie securely with string. Repeat the process until all the parcels are ready for steaming.
- Steam for 10-15 minutes, in either a bamboo steamer or a conventional steamer and then allow to cool.