Sticky rice is a staple of the Laotian diet. Laotian people eat more sticky rice per capita than any other people in the world according to the Smithsonian Institute.
It is so ingrained in the culture that a proverb attributed to a Laotian King is:
"Lao people play the Khene (national instrument of Laos), eat sticky rice, and build houses on stilts."
The people even refer to themselves as the children of sticky rice.
A different rice cultivar, glutinous (as in sticky like glue) or sweet rice is opaque.
Black rice is usually reserved for desserts, but to steam it the way the Laotians cook rice, you have two options: to eat it immediately after the harvest before it becomes hard and less "sticky", or to use it to dye the regular white sticky rice.
Measure out one cup of purple rice into a bowl, fill the bowl with water, and let soak overnight.
In the morning, clean and rinse the white sticky rice. Place in a bowl and just cover with water.
Drain the purple rice water into a measuring cup, and add the purple rice water and a spoonful of the purple rice grains (not too much as the purple rice is not "sticky" and won't hold or stick together like the regular sticky rice do).
Soak white rice for 8 hours - just in time to make dinner.
After eight hours, drain the rice into the bamboo steaming basket over the sink. Rinse the grains that are stuck to the sides.
By this time it will be dyed purple. You can see the grains of purple rice mixed in with the sticky rice. It adds a nice texture and pops when you bite into it.
Fill the pot with an inch and a half of water - not too high, you only want to steam the rice, not boil it.
Put the steaming basket on top and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil and turn down to medium heat. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
We found our steaming basket at Tap Phong in China Town, Toronto.
Turn the rice with a spatula, so that the bottom of the rice is now on the top. Let steam with the lid off for 10 minutes.
When done, the rice will be translucent, soft, and will stick together (but not to your fingers).
Turn the rice out onto a plate, and let the steam escape so the rice does not get soggy. You need to break it up and flip it over constantly for about 3 minutes until the steam is no longer causing condensation on the bottom of the plate.
Transfer the rice to a Laotian bamboo basket to keep it warm and prevent it from drying out. It is now ready to eat with your favourite savory dish.
Dip it in some Jeow Bong, and enjoy!