This pandan sticky rice dessert, or xôi lá dứa, is great blend of sweet, salty, and nutty flavors. The star here is the amazingly aromatic pandan leaves, highlighted by sweet coconut, brought together by warm sticky rice.
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 and not use extract, 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 richer. Make sure its coconut cream and not coconut milk!
Steaming the sticky rice
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.
Sesame seed topping
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 and reheat it if you need, without affecting the topping.
Pandan Sticky Rice w/ Shredded Coconut (Xôi Lá Dứa)
Topping (multiply as needed)
- 1 Tbsp freshly pan-roasted/baked sesame seeds
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- shredded coconut
- Cut pandan leaves into small pieces, blend with 1.5 cups water.
- Squeeze & discard pulp. ~1 cup of pandan water remains.
- Add pandan extract & salt to pandan water.
- Add the mixture to the rice in a large bowl. Add extra water if needed to just submerge rice.
- Soak for 4-12 hours unrefrigerated.
- Drain liquid from the rice.
- Steam for 15-20 min, until rice is soft and slightly clear. Soft enough to squeeze with your fingers.
- Mix coconut milk, sugar, salt. Add to rice in the steamer.
- Steam for another 10-15 more minutes.
- Make the topping by blending roasted sesame, sugar and salt in a food processor.
- Add shredded coconut and topping to the sticky rice.