In Northern Thailand, sticky rice is essential. Chef Ricker shows you how to steam it to perfection in the traditional way, using a rattan basket. (Plan ahead: the rice needs to be soaked overnight to absorb enough water to stay deliciously chewy.)
Place rice in a large bowl and add enough room-temperature water to cover by 1 inch. Soak at least 4 hours and up to 10. Once rice has soaked, rinse rattan basket to dampen, then set upright in a colander. Rinse cheesecloth to dampen, then line the inside of the rattan basket in an even layer (there will be overhang). Set aside.
Drain rice by slowly pouring off the water; when most of the water is gone, run the tap gently over the rice to rinse it, letting the water overflow from the bowl. As the tap runs, use your hand to gently stir the rice. The water will be cloudy at first, but it will become almost clear after 2–3 minutes. At that point, drain the rice in the sink using the cloth-lined basket fitted over the colander (discard the rinsing water). Add water to the steamer pot to a depth of 2 inches. Add pandan leaf, then bring water to a boil over high heat, 5 minutes.
Tie the cheesecloth into a bundle so the rice is completely enveloped. Place the rattan basket on top of the steamer pot. Reduce heat to medium, and place a pot lid that fits snugly inside the steamer directly on top of the rice bundle. Allow the rice to steam for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove pot lid. Use tongs to flip the cheesecloth bundle, so the top of the bundle now rests against the bottom of the basket. (Use the lid for assistance if necessary.) Replace the lid and steam for 15 more minutes.
After a total of 30–35 minutes of steaming, remove rice cooker from heat. Serve immediately, or place rice bundle in an insulated container (such as an ice bucket) to maintain the heat, keeping the container covered until ready to serve, up to 1 hour.