Laotian steamed sticky rice with eggplant dip

 Sue Pretty and Sysomphane Sengthavideth   |  
Laotian steamed sticky rice with eggplant dip (Photo: Chris Quintana)

Laotian steamed sticky rice with eggplant dip (Photo: Chris Quintana)

Steamed sticky rice is an essential part of every meal in Laos. In most cases, it is preferred to regular steamed rice. True to its name, steamed sticky rice sticks together in one big heap. In Laos, the best way to eat sticky rice and eggplant dip is with your hands. And, this is how it is done: simply tear a bite size of rice from the sticky rice heap, roll it into a small ball, and enjoy with grilled eggplant dip or any Lao dish of your choice.

Khao niao
(Steamed sticky rice)


Rinse the sticky rice under running water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in the water for 2–3 hours. Soaking the rice will reduce the cooking time, so soak for as long as possible. Once soaked, drain the rice, removing all excess water, then place the sticky rice into a steaming basket and begin to steam. After about 30 minutes, turn the rice over and further steam for 10–15 minutes until cooked. Set aside.

Jeow mak keua
(Grilled eggplant dip)


  • 500 grams Japanese eggplant
  • 6 pieces shallots
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 10 pieces chilies
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • A handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

Grill the eggplants, chillies, shallots, and garlic until the skins are charred. Remove from the grill and cool. Then peel the eggplants, shallots, and garlic and chop coarsely. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chilies and salt. Add the shallots and garlic and continue to pound until all the ingredients are crushed. Next, add the eggplants, lime juice, and fish sauce and pound again until the ingredients are well combined. Lastly, mix in the coriander leaves. Serve with the steamed sticky rice.

Tip: Do not use water when peeling the skin of the eggplants—they will become soggy and will also lose their incredible smoky flavor.

Serves 3–6.


Sue lived in Laos for 4 years before moving to the Philippines in 2011 with her husband IRRI head experiment station Leigh Vial. She met Dtae at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Laos where they both worked on tiger conservation. During social gatherings, which often revolved around food, Sue found Laotian dishes delicious and seriously addictive.

Dtae is now studying for her masters degree at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Sue and Dtae together with some Lao students regularly meet to cook, chat, laugh, and enjoy Lao food.

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