Monday, June 15, 2009

Aunt Lam's sweet sticky rice, my Mom's mangoes

Supreme Sweet Sticky Rice with Mangoes

Great-great-grandmother Mai was not the only one of my relatives to be famous in the Chanthaburi region for her food. Aunt Lam's sweet sticky rice was also legendary.

My mother's family were Suktukwans. In Thai, Suktukwan means "happiness every day" and the family name was a blessing bestowed upon an ancestor for his years of service as a confidant to Rama V, known to the Thai as พระปิยมหาราช, The Great Beloved King. You may know Rama V better as Prince Chulalongkorn, the oldest of King Mongkut's children to be tutored by Anna Leonowens for whom I am named.

But I am trying to tell you about my mom and her best friend, Aunt Lam. My mom's name was Yiem and she and Lam were famous even before they became great cooks because they were the first two women to ever get their hair permed in Chanthaburi.

Chanthaburi is a peaceful province located far from the warlike Burmese near Thailand's border with our sister nation, Cambodia. Aunt Lam was known throughout our region for her desserts. Everyone came to Chanthaburi to shop, party, relax and to eat well, and a visit to Aunt Lam's dessert shop was part of the experience.

All day while I was in school Aunt Lam would make desserts. Then at 5 p.m. she would open the doors to her shop and by 8 p.m. all her desserts would be sold. When Little Anna was asked to help at the shop she would have to work her way through the crowds to get in to help her Aunt Lam.

Of all of Aunt Lam's desserts the most popular was her famous sticky rice served with my mom's mangoes. People sometimes think I am joking but when my mom would drive up with her mangoes just before the shop opened the waiting customers would cheer because that meant there would be sticky rice with mangoes.

Although my mother has passed away Aunt Lam is still alive. She's almost 90 and in great health. But she did not forget her niece Anna. I had begged her for her sticky rice recipe ever since I was a little girl, but Aunt Lam always said no, this recipe is for my daughters. But time passed and Aunt Lam had to close her shop because all six of her daughters went to college and became bankers and government officials. So in 2002, just before we opened True Thai Restaurant, Aunt Lam gave me her sticky rice recipe to go with my mom's recipe for mangoes and now they are back together again here in Minneapolis.