Crispy Coconut Sticky Rice

Joseph “JJ” Johnson, the chef at The Cecil in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood, makes fragrant, lightly sweetened coconut rice, which he pats into a skillet and crisps to serve.

Crispy Coconut Sticky Rice
Photo: © Jenn Rinchey
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs


  • 1 1/2 cups short-grain sushi rice

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon Massaman or red curry paste

  • Three 2-by-1/2-inch strips of lime zest

  • One 2-by-1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, chopped

  • 1/2 fresh Thai bird chile

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and stems

  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed or canola oil


  1. Put the rice in a large bowl and add enough warm water to cover by 2 inches. Let soak at room temperature for 2 hours, swirling occasionally. Drain well.

  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk with the sugar, curry paste, lime zest, ginger, chile and salt and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking to dissolve the curry paste and sugar. Strain through a fine sieve into a small bowl; discard the solids. Clean the saucepan.

  3. In the saucepan, combine the drained rice with 2 1/4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and slowly drizzle the infused coconut milk on top. Fold the rice until the liquid is absorbed, then let stand for 15 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.

  4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Scrape the rice into the skillet, press it into an even layer and cook over moderate heat until the edge and bottom are golden and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Invert the rice onto a platter and serve.

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