sticky rice | yellow rice | nasi kunyit recipes

How to make sticky rice | nasi kunyit

Usually we eat curries with rice or roti or some kind of doughy bread, right? But have you ever try eating the curry with sticky rice? Perhaps you have if you were born and grew up in Southeast Asia or have traveled to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and spent time there on holidays or as an expat.

Depends on which countries, sticky rice is either sweet or savoury or both. For example, in Laos, sticky rice is a main staple food accompanied in their meals. I know because I have been to Laos on holidays and every single meals that I had, aside from noodles, there will be sticky rice in a nice little rice basket on the table. Whereas in Malaysia where I grew up, sticky rice as a savoury meal is cooked only on a special occasion at home. The normal rice – basmati, jasmine, brown, wild, etc – is the main staple food on the table at home. The most common sticky rice food in Malaysia is “ketupat” which is a small square or triangle rice cake usually accompanied with dried curries like “rendang” or with a popular street food in Malaysia, called “satay”. Sticky rice is also used in Malaysia to make local desserts.

However, the type of sticky rice that I know growing up is called “nasi kunyit”, which is a Malay word. “nasi” means rice and “kunyit” means turmeric. Literally translated it means “turmeric rice”. Normally it is cooked using normal rice but on a special occasion, it is cooked using “glutinous rice”. The grain of glutinous rice is what makes it sticky once cooked due to its low amylose content.

As a Malaysian Chinese born and grew up in Penang, it is a tradition when a baby is born and has his or her first month birthday called “mua guek” in my local dialect “hokkien”, the family will make “kari kay” chicken curry with potatoes, “ang nui” boiled eggs with their shells dyed red, “ang ku” red tortoise cake made from glutinous rice flour wrapped with mung bean fillings, and “ooi pui” yellow sticky rice coloured with turmeric powder. These four food items have a special meaning to the family representing harmony, unity and new life into the family. The food will be shared with other family members, relatives and friends. Unfortunately this Chinese tradition as I once knew is not as widely practiced now as it used to be and not many families cook this type of yellow rice at home anymore.

You can now make this special occasional yellow sticky rice in your own home and share among your family and friends. Hopefully you will find that it is so much enjoyable than eating your curry with normal rice. The creamy rich and sticky texture of this sticky rice is a perfect accompaniment with the two curries that I have shared in my earlier recipes and videos on YouTube.

How to make sticky rice

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Print



  • 2 cups glutinous rice (equivalent to 450 ml or 256.5 gm)
  • turmeric powder
  • white peppercorn
  • salt
  • tamarind peel (comes dehydrated in a packet at Asian supermarket)
  • 400 ml coconut milk (only use some)
  • 200 ml coconut cream (only use some)
  • banana leaves (comes frozen packed at Asian supermarket unless you live in Asia)
  • pandan leaves (comes frozen packed at Asian supermarket unless you live in Asia)


  1. Put 2 cups of glutinous rice in a large bowl and wash under running tap water until water is almost clear. This may take 4-5 times to wash and drain the water
  2. Fill enough water to cover the surface of the rice in the bow. Add 1 tablespoon turmeric powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 2 slices of tamarind peel. Cover with a cling wrap and soak overnight or at least 4 hours
  3. Remove the packet of banana leaves and pandan leaves from your freezer and thaw outside. Once you can remove the leaves, gently separate 1 large banana leaf from its packet and 3-4 pandan leaves from its packet
  4. With the banana leaf, gently wash under hot tap water or wipe the leaf with a warm cloth. Use a scissor to cut the leaves into sizes that will fit in the steamer into layers
  5. With the pandan leaves, wash gently under cold tap water and fold into knots. This will help release the aroma
  6. Rinse the soaked rice over running tap water until the water is clear. The rice should now be yellow in colour from soaking with the turmeric powder. Remove and discard tamarind peels. Add 1/4 cup coconut milk and 1 teaspoon white peppercorn. Mix through with rice
  7. On the base of a steamer, add few layers of the banana leaves
  8. Place the rice on top of the banana leaves. Add the knotted pandan leaves to sit on top of the rice. Cover with the lid. Then place the steamer to sit on top of a pot of boiling water. Steam for 15 minutes
  9. After 15 minutes of steaming, remove and check the rice. It should be halfway cooked. Now add another 1/4 cup of coconut milk over the rice. Also check the water level in the pot. Add more hot boiling water if required. Do not let the water dry up or it would burn and catch fire. Place the steamer back onto the pot and steam for another 15 minutes
  10. After a second round of 15-minutes, check the rice. It should be cooked and becomes sticky
  11. In a small cup or bowl, add 1/4 cup of coconut cream with a pinch of salt and mix through. Add the coconut cream on the rice. Cover the lid and steam for another 5 minutes
  12. Remove and serve with a mild flavoured chicken curry

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