The magic wand of the monsoons is still holding us under its spell. Sometimes it fills me with buoyancy and energy when I see a carpet of green outside my window and at other times I have to will myself to get out of the warm sheets. To add melody to the view little fantails keep flitting in and out of my window grill, teasing me with their short punctuated tweets or long drawn whistles. Sometimes like today, I simply leave everything and sit on the sill admiring the walk of the moorhen which reminds of a hobbling old man and I invariably hum ‘aaya aaya chenuwaali chunni ka baba…’ watching the crows fighting over a piece of mango or the bulbul that does not seem inclined to sing in the rain.
Everyday when I step out I find new flowers blossomed where there were only buds the day before. Trees spring surprises by bringing forth tender new shoots where there were hollows earlier. Rains I realize can never dampen my spirits, in fact I feel a lift all the time and find myself smiling at strangers and friends alike (quite silly but true!). The other day we had a power failure at work and while it took the technicians a little over an hour to set the fault right, the unexpected break gave us precious time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Marine Drive promenade. We had a great time playing antakshari and getting sprayed with sea water every now and then. A sudden downpour had us running for cover thereafter. The rains in Mumbai are like naughty kids – just when you think its all sunny you get caught in heavy shower, and the moment you bring out and pull open your umbrellas, its all gone.
Cooking is a pleasure during the rains, as my kitchen is no longer hot or humid. With the first downpour the hapoos / alphonsos (mango variety) disappeared and the fruit markets were filled with other varieties of mango such as kesar, daseri, totapuri and langda. Out of the four kesar tastes the best. It is also well suited for most desserts as it is less fibrous and has a luscious deep orange colour. Last year while scouting for mango recipes I had come across several recipes for ‘Thai Mango Sticky Rice Pudding’, and I knew I would make it someday. The flavours are very Indian and yet different from anything I had tasted before. One rainy day I made this and took it to office to add variety to my packed lunch. If you have a love for coconut milk, this dish is guaranteed to win your favour. Being vegan makes it perfect for me too. The name is quite a mouthful by itself, isn’t it? This is my version of the Thai dessert, and it is quite different from the original in terms of texture. The original dessert is made with less coconut cream. Mine is smothered.
Recipe: Thai Mango Sticky Rice Pudding (Khao Niaow Ma Muang)
Yield: Serves 5 – 7
(My version is quite different from the original)
Ripe, firm mangoes chopped into bite sized cubes or sliced thick – 2 cups
Any glutinous rice variety (I used ambemore rice) – 1 cup
Thick coconut milk (I grated and squeezed out fresh milk) – 3 cups + 1 cup for sauce
Flesh of a tender coconut (optional but recommended), chopped
Almond nut milk or any milk of your choice – 1 cup
Cornflour/maize starch – 1.5 tsp.
Vanilla stick – 1
Sugar – 1/2 + 1/4 cup
Soak cleaned rice for at least 3 to 4 hours and drain.
Cook the rice in 2 cups of water till almost done. Now add 3 cups of coconut milk and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir well and cook till the milk is completely absorbed and the rice turns soft. Stir in between to avoid sticking in the bottom of the vessel and burning. Let cool.
Meanwhile stir the cornflour(or vanilla custard powder), almond milk and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Slit the vanilla bean and scrape the powder into the liquid. Heat in a pan to form a thick sauce taking care to stir all the while. Stir the remaining 1 cup coconut milk into this sauce to form the coconut sauce.
To serve pour a thin layer of sauce, top with a layer of the rice and a tablespoon of the sauce, top with chunks of mango and slurp!
I have made this quite a few times and took pictures each time. It is recommended that this pudding should be served warm but I liked it better cold. I just mixed the sauce with the rice and the chunks of mangoes and carried it to office. It was much tastier than topping with the chunks as the flavour of the mangoes had been infused into the pudding by then.