Thai Sticky Rice Containers

Sticky rice containers hanging in the kitchen
If you’ve been to Thailand you’ve seen them everywhere in popular tourist areas. Woven bamboo containers that make great souvenirs to remember your trip to Thailand. If you’ve only been to the tourist areas you might think they are just that, souvenirs. In fact they are much more than souvenirs and even much more than sticky rice containers, I see them as a large part of Thai culture and society.

Fresh bamboo on the family farmI watched with wonder as my girlfriends mother came out of the family house with a machete one morning and proceeded towards the bamboo patch around the side of the house. She cut down 2-8 foot sections of bamboo and then continued chopping those sections down to 1 foot pieces. She then grabbed two tiny stools and sat down amongst the family and started splitting the bamboo down to 1″x1′ pieces. Once this was done she would then use her teeth to separate these 1 inch pieces into 4 separate pieces.

Cutting the bamboo down to 1 inch piecesAll the while she tended to her child and grand child and continued her lively conversations with her sisters and brother. She was preparing the bamboo for new sticky rice containers which would become a part of their every day life. Some of the containers are very large while others are very small and they all serve their purpose equally well. When lunch time comes 4 sticky rice containers are brought out and spread out among the family so everyone had sticky rice within arms reach. Later, when Uncle went to work he was given a small personal sticky rice container to snack on through the day.

The bamboo is cut and dried and then woven into whatever sized basket is needed. It seems easy enough but there is more to it than that. The interaction between family and friends while the weaving is taking place and then the meals where they are used by family and friends alike. Often times friends coming by the farm would bring their own containers of sticky rice to share. They also make an appearance when friends are gathered just to talk or when a break in work is needed. It’s more about coming together and sharing time with people you care about.

Separating the bamboo This takes some time Drying the bamboo

On the family farm much of what is needed is often produced by the family. I suspect that even if they were willing to spend the 100-200 baht for the sticky rice containers they would still make them themselves because it seems to me it’s more about family and community rather than containers and food. It’s a way for them to spend time together working on something that is important to the family and the community.

Cooking the sticky rice Sharing the sticky rice Sticky rice is a part of every meal

Next time you see a sticky rice container in use look around and I bet you’ll see many smiling faces around it. Maybe Thailand should export the sticky rice containers full of rice to the west with instructions for use…who knows maybe the decline in family and community will slowly turn around and people will spend face time together again instead of texting, e-mailing or just locking themselves away with the internet and T.V for company.

sig1 Thai Sticky Rice Containers

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Comment by MikeNo Gravatar
2009-07-07 00:25:12

Talen I had a rice cooker like this in the UK (probably from China) but could never get decent rice!
Its only since I have been here that I have learned the secret of cooking great rice.
Mike´s last blog ..Bangkok Transit Tour-Stopover up to 12 Hours My ComLuv Profile

Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar
2009-07-07 02:38:55

Talen, thank you for writing this post as I’ve always wondered about the sticky rice containers.

I don’t eat a lot of rice, but when I do, I prefer sticky rice (it’s also supposed to be lower in calories or something healthy like that).

The Issan restaurant I go to across the way uses the sticky rice containers, but with plastic baggies inside (makes sense as they need to reuse them).

So do you know how many times a regular Thai household uses each of the containers? I mean, is making the little baskets a weekly or monthly thing?

I would LOVE to know how to make the baskets. I guess that should be on my list of things to do when I finally make my leap to staying with a Thai family for a week or so.

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-07-07 03:15:26

Cat, The baskets can last for years. The family house in Nakhon Phanom had at least 20 of them in varying sizes. The one Mama is preparing for in the photos was for me but she didn’t finish it in time before I left.

I think the older ones get retired at some point but what that point is I don’t know.

Comment by malcolmNo Gravatar
2009-07-07 03:19:08

Talen , a simply wonderful post on the subject and from the heart of someone who feels close to the folks he is writing about .I love sticky rice and it great to eat with lap, and other Thai dishes. We took several of them to the USA when we went for my daughter-in -law who teaches cooking lessons in a private setting in her own kitchen, she was so happy to get them ,it made her Thai classes real authentic,she loved them. also Ciejay has a few on her night stand to keep her jewerly in, works great.I think a class in basket weaving would be necessary for me to make those baskets , but would love to try.Thanks for the great pictures to “you done good ” Malcolm

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-07-07 03:34:01

Thanks Malcolm.

I could take a few classes on basket weaving and never come close to what Pookie’s Aunt and Mother can do. The funny thing is they don’t think they are good weavers but if you saw their work you’d be astounded at the complex detail they weave into the patterns. And they weave very fast while never skipping a beat on the gossip front.

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-07-07 03:29:29

You’ve posted some cracking village life photos with this one, now my heart pines for Wilai’s village. The sticky rice baskets, don’t go to the Wat without one.

Wi’s mother sets off every morning with some food and her basket of sticky rice to offer to the monks at the village temple and I’ve never really thought much about these little containers until this post. I’ve never seen anyone make one but having read this then I now know what effort and social joy goes into crafting them.

Catherine’s comment about sticky rice being lower in calories interests me because young Wilai seems to think the opposite, now I’m confused. I’ll have one more drool over the village pics then I’m off, it’ll soon be time for a few lunchtime beers. I really do enjoy time off work.
Martyn´s last blog ..Strange Ways – Thai National Lottery Tips My ComLuv Profile

Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar
2009-07-08 03:19:10

I was surprised when I read that sticky rice was lower in calories too (which is why I remembered it). But I believe I was surprised because of what I often eat with sticky rice – mango and coconut cream…

If I can find that quote I’ll put it here (I did a quick cruise round and could not find it)
Catherine´s last blog Enters the Thai Conversation My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-07-08 04:14:49

Hmm I have also heard that the sticky rice is lower in calories but I just don’t know.

What I do know…Catherine…is that the sticky rice with mango and coconut cream is my favorite thing in the world so that means it’s absolutely not low calorie and probably causes cancer :P

Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar
2009-07-08 22:32:36

‘it’s absolutely not low calorie and probably causes cancer’

ou got that right. I’m SO the same. If I love it, then it has a good chance of being bad for me.

Twice a month I go shopping and bring back sticky rice with mango and coconut cream to share with Go?ong (it’s an easy sanook thing to do).

And I always feel so guilty from consuming something so sweet.

Guilt is, I believe, a part of the attraction :-D

Comment by Lawrence
2009-07-09 08:41:43

Talen, I’ve really enjoyed this post. You have observed the process so closely and detailed it so clearly. It’s good to see someone recognizing and appreciating the sort of natural technology the Thais (especially in Isan) are so good at. Hoping to see more like this (no pressure!).
Lawrence´s last blog ..Multi-cultural Grandchildren My ComLuv Profile

Comment by expatudon08No Gravatar
2009-07-09 12:39:42

simple but informative post we have all sizes at are home in the uk and they get used everyday i love sticky rice we buy it buy the 10 kilo bag from leeds

Comment by SteveNo Gravatar
2009-07-14 09:29:19

Nice… I’ve never bothered with souvenirs on my previous trips to Thailand – I travel light, and am too lazy to visit the Post Office and send back stuff – but on my next LoS trip I’ll be buying a few of these sticky rice container puppies for my (soon to come) first house! I’ve got a Japanese Zojirushi rice cooker on order that can apparently cook all sorts of rice, so looking forward to my first sticky rice meal!

Comment by KearaNo Gravatar
2009-11-15 13:00:47

thank you for the nice explaining:)
khob khun kha

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