Thai Fermented Sweet Rice Dessert, 'Khao Mahk'

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Khao Mahk is a common, everyday Thai dessert typically consumed by adults only, as it has a touch of natural fermented alcohol. We're not distillers, but this is likely similiar to the way Mekong Whiskey is made.

This would be considered a Thai "comfort food", as it's often kept on hand for guests who might come to visit, and it's always served cold (store in the fridge until you are ready to consume). A refreshing, cool treat which is widely available from corner stores throughout Thailand. This is typically not made at home, perhaps due to the difficulty in finding the yeast balls necessary to make it. If left to ferment, the rice becomes alcohol, and home stills are not encouraged in Thailand so that may be one reason for the lack of yeast balls sold over the counter.

We were initially asked about khao mahk from a customer, and after some research we now can offer you all of the important ingredients to make your own. Just follow the detailed instructions below and follow the photographs we've taken of our cousin from Ladya, Kanchanaburi, who is well-known throughout the area as a khao mahk specialist.


4 cups + 2 tablespoons uncooked Thai sticky rice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 dried yeast ball, pounded into powder with a mortar and pestle


Soak the uncooked sticky rice in lukewarm water for 15 minutes, then rinse the rice thoroughly several times in cold water until the water runs clear. Be sure to rinse the rice well.

Put the rice in a stacked steamer (as shown below) with lid closed, or you can use a traditional sticky rice steaming pot & basket. Steam the rice over moderate heat for 30 minutes. Be careful not to over cook, 30 minutes is enough. If you use the stacked steamer, after 15 minutes remove the lid and move the rice around gently to get it all equally steamed.

Remove from heat, and transfer the cooked rice onto a big tray or a large baking sheet. Leave to cool, completely. Rinse the rice again in cold water, gently use your hand to separate the rice from sticking to each other, then drain in colander. Make sure rice drains completely.

Place the rice in a large bowl. Add sugar and mix well, followed by yeast powder. Using your fingers, gently mix all together being careful not to break the rice. Transfer the rice mixture into completely dried containers with lids (Tupperware or other similar container). Put enough rice in the container so when you close the lid, the lid will not touch the rice or press down on the rice (see comment below!). Leave outside the refrigerator overnight 1-3 nights or until you see water come out from the rice. When water forms in the bottom of the container, your khao mahk is ready. Let ferment a bit longer for a stronger taste. Then put in the refrigerator, and serve cold.

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November 17th, 2009
11:26 AM
I question the part on sealing the containers and letting them ferment. I ferment many foods, yogurt, kombucha, beer, wine, sourdough, kimchi, kefir, etc. They are never sealed as they will exploded from CO2 build up. I fear you'll have a few angry costumers and/or followers very mad at you and your ears will be ringing as they clean rice off their walls and ceiling.
M. Pudd
June 10th, 2010
12:44 PM
Thank you so much for posting detailed instructions. The Vietnamese have a similar dessert called "com ruou," except sugar is usually not added. My mom always told me "com ruou" is really hard to make because you can never get the proportion of rice and yeast right, and then it molds instead of ferments. I followed your instructions (but omitted the sugar) and 3 days later there was plenty of water at the bottom, and my mom said it was delicious.
F. Bacon
October 1st, 2012
5:48 PM
Since the idea is to create alcohol, as much air should be prevented from entering the vessel as possible. Alcohol is produced under basically anaerobic conditions. Also, to prevent mold entering, one should put hot rice into a bowl and cover it immediately, causing the inside of the vessel to extremely warm or even hot. After cooling down to room temperature, one could then add the yeast and sugar, taking care not to allow much air in.
November 3rd, 2012
9:25 AM
Sounds delicious, and I look forward to making that I found the yeast balls.
January 19th, 2013
8:56 PM
Thank you for the wonderful recipe . Can you please tell me how big the yeast ball are . Thank you so much Naka
March 14th, 2013
7:26 PM
how about blackstickyrice ?
April 27th, 2014
10:43 PM
I made this for many time from this post they came out so good. Thank you so much Naka .
February 3rd, 2015
5:55 PM
Regarding black sticky rice: This from Wikipedia... "Khao mahk is a Thai dessert that is made from white or black sticky rice."
July 2nd, 2015
3:52 AM
I question the washing of the rice after cooking. Why do we need to wash the rice after cooking? What is the difference if we will not wash the rice after cooking?
March 27th, 2016
10:36 PM
Washing the rice until the water is clear prevents it from spoiling during the fermentation process.

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