Sticky rice rolls

Preparation info

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Java’s answer to sushi rice rolls, here a caramelised meat filling is encased in coconut-scented sticky rice. I like to use homemade chicken floss inside, but you could also use shop-bought abon (meat floss) or shred any cooked meat and mix with a little bumbu, a slick of coconut milk and palm sugar. These are a popular snack across Java, but a central region outside Yogyakarta takes their dedication further with an annual lemper day, when the whole village will cook and eat nothing else. In her accomplished book Indonesian Regional Food & Cookery, Sri Owen documents how they shape the rice rolls into every part of the human body, from those as large as a thigh to as small as a little finger. No human body part (she was assured) is forgotten.


  • 200 g (7 oz) sticky rice
  • 200 ml (generous ¾ cup) light coconut milk
  • 1 lemongrass stick, trimmed, bruised and tied in a knot
  • 2 salam leaves (optional)
  • banana leaves, softened, and toothpicks, for wrapping (optional)

For the filling


Soak the rice in cold water for 1 hour. Drain.

Boil the rice in salted coconut milk with the lemongrass and salam leaves until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Stir vigorously towards the end to help the stickiness develop. Transfer to a steamer pan or steamer basket and steam for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and spread out on a plate to cool.

Moisten the chicken floss with a little coconut milk for the filling. Taste for seasoning.

Divide the rice and the filling into eight. Take one piece of rice in your hands and massage and press it together well - in Indonesia they call this making the rice strong (and enjoy the natural hand cream from the coconut oil!). Press the rice into a flat disc in your palm, sit the filling inside and shape the rice around it in a fat sausage. Repeat.

If you can’t get hold of banana leaves, the rolls can be served just like this. Wrapping and heating the rolls will imbue them with a delicate herbal aroma. Wrap each into a tight banana leaf parcel and secure the ends with toothpicks. Heat a frying pan and dry-fry the rolls for just a short time on each side to warm and slightly char the leaves. Leave to cool before serving.