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.
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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