Khao Tom

Khao tom is a snack food that is popular all over South East Asia, but particularly in Laos and Thailand, that comes in a variety of different forms.

Khao tom is popular in Laos as well as Thailand
Khao tom is popular in Laos as well as Thailand

The defining characteristic of the recipe is that the dish is steamed in a leaf bound by string or lengths of plant materials, and filled with sticky rice.

About Khao Tom

In Laos Khao Tom comes in many varieties, which fall into two categories:

  • Sweet: Sticky rice is mixed with coconut milk and sugar and accompanied by a thick long slice of banana. Taro, black beans, and yellow soy beans are also often mixed in with the sticky rice.
  • Savoury: Sticky rice is generally mixed with mung beans and then steamed with pieces of port fat.

In Laos you will see khao tom for sale in most markets and lots of street side stalls displayed on circular bamboo weave dishes, piled high. Khao tom is a dish which you make in large quantities, even at home, which keeps well for a couple of days and is very cheap.

How to make in Khao Tom

Although there are a variety of different types of khao tom the cooking process is the same:

  • Step 1: Prepare the leaves. The most commonly used type of leaves for making khao tom are banana leaves, although palm leaves are also used. Whichever type of leaf the dish is made with the leaf generally needs to be cut and left to dry out for a few hours to make it pliable enough to wrap the mixture in for steaming.
  • Step 2: Cook sticky rice. Sticky rice needs to be cooked differently to normal rice. Sticky rice needs to be soaked in water overnight, then cooked in a steamer, before being spread out on a flat surface to remove any pockets of water.
  • Step 3: Prepare the other ingredients. For the sweet version coconut milk needs to heated to absorb the sugar and if beans are included then these need to be pre-cooked.
  • Step 4: Fill the parcels. The sticky rice needs to be mixed with other ingredients, except slices of banana or pork fat which laid by the side of the sticky rice mixture, before being wrapped in the leaf and tied securely.
  • Step 5: Steam the parcels. Place the parcels side by side, and then in more rows on top of each other, and then steam for around 30 minutes.
  • Step 6: Leave to cool. Leave the parcels for at least an hour before eating. This not simply to let the khao tom cool down enough to safely eat them, when you let the parcels rest the filling inside congeals giving the dish the correct consistency and texture.

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