Sticky Rice Burgers


Sticky Rice Burger
I find it hard to believe that the edibles at 7-Eleven stores in Bangkok would make the locals, who are surrounded by far better and fresher foods, salivate. But the ubiquity of these stores in the city makes me question my sentiment. Whether or not it makes sense to you and me, people regularly buy things from them, and apparently they are doing very, very well.

Having observed how the various pork and chicken sticky rice burgers seem to fly off the refrigerator shelves at my neighborhood “say-wen” during my last trip to Thailand, I decided that the only way to find out why was to try them. After all, as far as I know, these are not the kind of stuff you can find anywhere else on the streets. So I did.

To my surprise, they weren’t bad at all. The laab (RTGS: lap) sticky rice burger was the most questionable of all the available flavors, but even that wasn’t too shabby. In fact, if not for the hint of fake lime flavoring in the meat, I’d say it’s pretty good.

Sticky Rice Burger
So just for fun, I made four sticky rice burgers for myself and a friend this afternoon. Here’s what I did.

1. I soaked 1 1/4 cups of raw Thai sticky rice for 3 hours in the morning (you kind of have to plan ahead).
2. I steamed it (you must cook Thai sticky rice by steaming it with vapor; you cannot cook it in water) on the splatter guard like I usually do.
3. While the rice was cooking, I added to one pound of ground lamb (you can use beef, pork, chicken, or turkey) one tablespoon of fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 2 teaspoons of ground dried red pepper, 1 tablespoon of toasted rice powder, 1 tablespoon finely-chopped shallot (onion’s fine too), 1 tablespoon of finely-chopped mint leaves, and 1 tablespoon of finely-chopped sawtooth coriander (coriander/cilantro can also be used). Then I formed the mixture into 4 patties weighing a little over 1/4 pound each (cheeseless Quarter Pounder?*).
4. When the rice was about 3/4 of the way cooked, I started pan-frying my lamb patties (until this thing goes away, I’m not grilling my burgers outside). By the time the patties were cooked, the rice was ready.
5. I formed the sticky rice “buns” using a pancake/egg ring, packing it down with the back of a damp spoon.
6. I assembled the burgers, wrapped them in some parchment paper, and served them right away. No need for any sauce; there was enough flavor in the patties for me (besides, who eats laab with any sauce?)
7. In retrospect, I should have asked my friend to help make some Thai green papaya salad while I was frying the patties. That way, we would have had some fresh vegetable to go with these. But, oh well.

*Royale with(out) Cheese in France?

21 Responses to Sticky Rice Burgers

  1. Ani February 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Good lord. I must eat this.

  2. Kara H February 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    yay! i loved these when the thai mcdonald’s had them for a season!

  3. Sam February 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    I lived in Thailand for over a year and could never bring myself to eat the prepackaged 7/11 meals when, as you said – there are so many delicious fresh options for under 30 baht anyway. But this homemade version looks delicious!

  4. Mike February 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    I’m curious, what other flavors do they have at 7-11, Leela?

    • Leela February 25, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      The only one, other than the laab one, that I can remember is Hat Yai-style fried chicken sticky rice burger. I didn’t try it, though. My guess is that its flavor might be similar to this.

  5. Jeannie February 25, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    Sounds like a great meal! Interesting creation…must look out for this when I next visit Thailand:D

  6. Eileen February 26, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    I have never heard of using rice patties like this–but now that I have, I think I need to try some very soon. :) Plus, yes to lamb! It’s so obviously the best burger meat.

  7. Tonia February 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Oui!! We have quarterpounders with and without fromage in france.
    I would prefer the above one though

  8. michlhw February 26, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    I’d totally make this! and i’ll brown each rice patty on one side each to get some crispyness. Leela, did your rice “buns” stay together while eating or did they disintegrate? and how did you pick them up to eat? with bare hands or?

    there’s this japanese fast food chain where im from called MOS burger and their specialties are their rice burgers.. like yours.. some with yakiniku inside, or shrimp tempura patties.. mmmm! they wrapped each rice burger in a styrofoam-ish wrapper cuz that was the only thing that could prevent the rice from sticking! short of looking for a plastic bag to stand in, what would you use? banana leaf?

    • Leela February 26, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

      michlhw – When cooked properly (i.e. with vapor), Thai long-grain sticky rice, which is what I (and 7-Eleven) use, does not stick to your hands or container. In fact, the traditional way of eating it is to take a piece and knead it with your finger first. Thai long grain sticky rice is different from Japanese short grain sticky rice which is cooked in water. And the two do not behave the same way.

      This is why MOS has to use a wrapper. They use Japanese sticky rice. I wrapped mine in parchment paper for presentation only. It was actually unnecessary. Cooked and kneaded long grain sticky rice doesn’t fall apart in your hand. The only thing that makes the “glue” come apart is excess moisture; that’s why I use no sauce.

      So if you’d like to use Japanese short grain rice, 1. do not cook it with the splatter guard method, 2. find something to wrap the burgers with such as parchment or wax paper, and 3. crisp up the outside to create texture contrast and minimize surface stickiness, if desired (I advise against this if you use Thai long grain sticky rice).

      • michlhw March 13, 2013 at 2:40 am #

        thanks! very insightful.. but but why wouldnt you pan fry one side if using thai long grain sticky rice? and also, i’m sure you’ve mentioned this somewhere before.. maybe in your post on steaming thai sticky rice, but how do you knead it with your fingers? do you basically roll it? wet/dry/oiled fingers? super thanks in advance!

        • Leela March 13, 2013 at 11:20 am #

          michlhw – Because Thai sticky rice, unlike short grain sticky rice, becomes hard instead of crispy when seared. To knead Thai sticky rice with your fingers, simply pull out a piece (2-3 tablespoons’ worth) from the basket with your dry fingers and, with all your fingers forming something like a tulip bulb, lightly squeeze it a few times to form a compact ball. Properly cooked Thai sticky rice sticks together, but not to your hand.

  9. Lizzie February 27, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Must. Have.

  10. Lizzie February 27, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Also, wonder if you could go Japanese fusion onigiri style with a sheet of nori…

  11. Kate February 27, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Haven’t seen these but will have to try them.

    As for sticky rice, yes, I think you just have to cook it yourself, and cook it properly.

    So many restaurants now, in the NY area, are in the habit of cooking sticky rice, packing it in portion sized bags in the freezer, then microwaving it and serving the customer a scalding hot plastic pouch on a plate that is too hot to open….when you do open it, the consistency is all wrong and you can not grab the sticky rice and pinch some with your fingers. Because some things like laab or papaya salad really are immeasurably better with sticky rice, I am in the habit of ordering my food, including the plastic sac of sticky rice, then taking out some home cooked sticky rice and adding it to the plate with that sorry plastic bundle.
    So it means going out to a Thai restaurant means more planning ahead…..but of course the best thing really would be to cook everything at home and eat at home!

  12. p. piampiti February 27, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    I love sticky rice!! I’ll love this new invention. Awsome.
    Can you please publish a recipe for “Toa Tad”? This is
    a dessert that made with yellow beans, sugar and coconut milk, then
    baked or steamed and cut into squares.

  13. Laura April 10, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    On the one hand, I am too lazy to make sticky rice just to turn it into a bun. :) On the other hand, I would cheerfully make the burger and serve it with rice. Yum.

  14. Cheryl April 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    Leela… I made these, and they were fantastic! It was my first attempt at Thai sticky rice; with the splatterguard method, I was successful. I think I may have over-cooked it just a bit because I spread it out to about 1.5″ thick. I have 2 splatterguards so flipping it was a breeze! My husband particularly liked them because he’s gluten free and hasn’t been able to pick up a burger in quite some time. Thanks for a great recipe!

  15. Akash January 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    Laab…burgers? Amazing. I may make the burgers on their own even if I don’t get to the sticky rice buns the first round.

  16. Hotsun February 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    For a road trip in December we made these, but with a vegetarian bun! These are awesome! Finally something we can make, and all enjoy, for my grandson who is allergic to so many things. So easy to make, the instructions are well laid out and no the rice doesn’t stick at all! Thank you so much for this recipe Leela!

    • Leela February 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

      Hotsun – Thank you! Great to know this works on a road trip!

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