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Thai rapper’s Coachella performance unleashes mango sticky rice frenzy

Milli, the first Thai artist to appear solo at the California music festival, stirred national pride when she ate the iconic dessert onstage.
2022 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 1 - Day 2
Thai rapper Milli performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif., on Saturday.Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Coachella

The hottest thing to emerge from Coachella this year may be cravings for Thailand’s mango sticky rice.

Rapper Danupha “Milli” Khanatheerakul, the first Thai artist to appear solo at the California music festival, set off a frenzy for her country’s iconic dessert when she ate spoonfuls between verses during her performance on Saturday.

“Who wants mango and rice that is sticky?” the 19-year-old chanted into the roaring crowd while singing a song named after the dish. The song skewered stereotypes about Thailand (“I don’t ride an elephant”) and criticized the government, which has been challenged by several waves of protests.

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Interest in the dessert has surged in Thailand since Milli’s performance.

Mango sticky rice recipes and memes have proliferated on Thai social media, while online searches for “mango sticky rice” jumped 20 times, according to Google Trends.

For many, seeing a Thai artist eating a locally beloved dish on a global stage was welcomed representation.

“I like Milli eating mango sticky rice [onstage] so much. Because I’m Thai too, so I know and eat mango sticky rice since I was young,” Nongnapath, a 25-year-old digital illustrator based in Bangkok, the Thai capital, told NBC News through a messaging app.

“I ... don’t know what [foreigners] think about this dish. So I think Milli eating mango sticky rice on Coachella stage is ... very powerful,” said Nongnapath, who like many Thais goes by one name.

Even foreign embassies in Thailand have jumped on the mango sticky rice bandwagon.

The U.S. Embassy posted a digitally altered picture of Mount Rushmore on Tuesday that showed the four former presidents in the sculpture ogling the dessert.

“These former Presidents also want a bite of this mangonificent combo!” the Facebook post read.

The Swedish ambassador to Thailand, Jon Astrom Grondahl, also reviewed the popular dish in a video on his embassy’s Facebook page on Monday, rating it nine out of 10.

Its moment in the spotlight may also cement mango sticky rice as part of Thailand’s national identity. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the Ministry of Culture may seek to have it recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage, according to The Bangkok Post.

The implications of the dessert’s surge in popularity, however, go beyond an appreciation for good food.

“MILLI aka Thailand’s closest hope for soft power!” Thai politician Pita Limjaroenrat wrote on Twitter on Sunday after her performance.