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Have you ever been to Japan, Indonesia or the Philippines and wondered what kind of fluffy and sweet dessert you’ve been served? Well, I bet you’re not the only one!
Asians love their rice so much that they have created several dishes and desserts out of it, whether maintaining the rice form or milling it to add to the recipe.
And among the best types of rice to use is, of course, none other than glutinous rice!
Glutinous rice, also popularly known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is a short-grain rice that is common in East and Southeast Asia. It gets its glutinous or “sticky” quality from the high amount of amylopectin it contains. Amylopectin is a type of starch that is highly soluble in water and is responsible for that gummy texture.
Because of its sticky texture and inherent sweetness compared to regular rice, it’s no wonder it’s so popular.
In this blog, let us dig deeper into what makes glutinous rice a sure win in many Asian dishes.
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In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is glutinous rice?
- 2 The origin of glutinous rice
- 3 Glutinous rice across Asian countries
- 4 What’s the difference between glutinous rice and white rice?
- 5 What’s the difference between glutinous rice and glutinous rice flour?
- 6 Glutinous rice: popular pairings
- 7 Where to eat glutinous rice
- 8 The etiquette of eating glutinous rice
- 9 Is glutinous rice healthy?
- 10 Takeaway
What is glutinous rice?
Glutinous rice is a type of rice that is highly sticky and chewy when cooked.
Although it has the word “gluten” in its name, glutinous rice is actually gluten-free.
The name simply refers to the fact that cooked glutinous rice becomes glue-like and sticky when cooked.
Glutinous rice is also sometimes called “waxy rice” because of how it maintains its shape even when cooked.
To give you an idea, glutinous rice is the kind of rice used in making mochi balls, a popular Japanese dessert.
If you’ve ever had Chinese rice dumplings or bak chang, glutinous rice is also used there.
What does glutinous rice taste like?
If you haven’t had glutinous rice before, think of it as a sweeter and chewier version of regular rice.
It also has a nuttier flavor that is more pronounced than regular rice.
When glutinous rice is cooked, it becomes very sticky because of amylopectin.
How to prepare and cook glutinous rice?
The first thing you need to do is to rinse the glutinous rice several times in water until the water runs clear. This is to remove any dirt or impurities.
After that, soak the glutinous rice in water for at least 30 minutes. This will help make the glutinous rice to become softer and easier to cook.
After soaking, drain the glutinous rice and transfer it to a sauce pan (these are best for sticky rice) and add water, making sure that the water level is at least 2 inches above the glutinous rice.
Bring the pot of water to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the glutinous rice is cooked through.
Once done, turn off the heat and let the glutinous rice sit in the pot for about 10 minutes to absorb all the water.
Fluff it with a fork, then transfer it to a serving bowl.
If you would like to make it easy for yourself, simply get a rice cooker that has a special sticky rice setting like these.
How to eat glutinous rice
There are many ways to enjoy glutinous rice. It can be eaten on its own or paired with other ingredients to create a delicious dish or dessert.
Some of the popular ways to enjoy glutinous rice include:
- Making glutinous rice balls or dumplings
- Using it as a base for savory dishes like congee or porridge
- Incorporating it into sweet desserts like mango sticky rice or black glutinous rice pudding
No matter how you choose to enjoy glutinous rice, one thing is for sure–it is delicious and versatile food that is perfect for any occasion!
Best glutinous rice to buy
Here are the five of the best glutinous rice to buy on the market today.
Golden Phoenix Thai Sweet Rice
The best sticky rice in the world is grown and harvested in Thailand, where this high quality sweet sticky rice is produced by Golden Phoenix.
ROM America Sticky Rice
This brand of sticky rice, which is made and packed in the US, is simple to cook and can be used to make a number of meals, including mango sticky rice, yaksik, and samgye-tang.
Three Rings Thai Sticky Rice
Thai mango sticky rice, a traditional Thai dessert, is often made from Three Rings Thai sticky rice, which can be used to make both sweet and savory dishes.
McCabe Organic Sweet Rice
This sweet rice by McCabe is a safe and healthy option, as certified organic by CCOF and OCIA that you can use to make a variety of sweet and savory recipes of your choice.
It is a US product made in California and comes in both white and brown versions. It is completely organic and adheres to the Climate Pledge.
RiceSelect Sweet Sticky Dessert Rice
RiceSelect Discoveries Sweet Sticky Dessert Rice can be used for many different purposes and will create an unforgettable meal when eaten in your premium dessert.
It is also non-GMO project verified, certified gluten-free, and certified Kosher by Star K, making it a fantastic addition to your pantry.
I recommend soaking this rice before cooking – just 20 minutes total time makes it cook perfectly.
The origin of glutinous rice
Glutinous rice has been around since at least 900 CE and possibly before.
Farmers specifically developed the rice to be sticky, and it quickly gained enormous popularity, especially in Laos.
The cultivation of glutinous rice, however, saw a brief fall due to changes in rice growing methods and cooking trends, but it experienced a resurgence in the 20th century.
In addition to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, glutinous rice is also farmed in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Northeast India.
This variety even makes up roughly 85% of the rice produced in Laos.
Depending on the location, companies may label the rice as “botan rice,” “sticky rice,” “mochi rice,” or “waxy rice.”
While glutinous rice is not as popular as regular rice in the Western world, it is slowly gaining popularity, thanks to its unique flavor and texture.
So if you haven’t tried glutinous rice yet, now is the perfect time to do so!
Glutinous rice across Asian countries
The cultivation of glutinous rice does not only take place in certain Asian countries. In fact, almost all Asian countries have it and have incorporated it into their dishes.
Let’s take a closer look at how each of these countries below uses glutinous rice and what they call it.
Sticky rice is called bini dhan (unhusked sticky rice), while husked rice is called bini choil (chal) in some dialects. White and pink varieties are both cultivated at many homestead farms.
Boiled or steamed bini choil is called Bini Bhat and it is often served with a curry of fish or meat and grated coconut, making it a popular choice for breakfast.
Sometimes it is eaten with a splash of sugar, salt, and coconut alone.
In Khmer, glutinous rice is referred to as bay damnaeb.
Glutinous rice is only used for sweets in Cambodian cuisine and is a necessary component of the majority of sweet dishes, including ansom chek, kralan, and num ple aiy.
Glutinous rice is referred to as num nuòmǐ (糯米) in Chinese or chu̍t-bí (秫米) in Hokkien.
Glutinous rice is frequently crushed to manufacture glutinous rice flour.
This flour is used to make the traditional Chinese New Year dishes niangao and tangyuan, which are sweet dumplings.
Additionally, it is used in baking and as a thickener.
In the Philippines, sticky rice is also referred to by the terms malagkit in Tagalog and pilit in Visayan.
Glutinous rice is most commonly used in desserts, also known as kakanin.
Among the popular kakanin, glutinous rice-based desserts are suman, biko, and sapin-sapin.
In Java and the majority of Indonesia, glutinous rice is referred to as beras ketan or simply ketan, and as pulut in Sumatra.
It is also important to note that glutinous rice is not frequently eaten as a staple but is more commonly cooked as a savory snack.
To name a few: ketan, ketupat, gandos, lemang, and many more are among the best examples of glutinous rice-based snacks.
Glutinous rice is referred to as mochigome (Japanese: もち米) in Japan.
It is frequently incorporated into classic meals like okowa, ohagi, and sekihan, also referred to as red bean rice.
Mochi, or sweet rice cakes, are made from glutinous rice, which is turned into mochiko, a type of rice flour.
Mochi is a traditional Japanese rice cake that is made for the New Year but is also enjoyed all year long.
Chapssal is what glutinous rice called in Korea. While rice cakes are called chalddeok and cooked sticky rice is referred to as chapssalddeok.
Sticky rice is deeply embedded in the heart of every Lao and identifies themselves as “children of sticky rice.”
Khao niao is the Lao word for sticky rice; khao is the word for rice, and niao is the word for sticky.
Eating glutinous rice is part of their staple diet, and among their best glutinous rice-based meals and desserts include khao lam, nham kao, khao khua, khao tom, and many more.
Glutinous rice is referred to as pulut in Malaysia, where it is typically combined with santan (coconut milk) and a little salt to give it flavor.
It is frequently employed throughout the Raya holiday season as traditional food, such as kelupis, ketupat, and kochi.
The glutinous rice is known as kao hnyin and is very popular in the country.
Like other countries, they also have many dishes that use glutinous rice, such as Kao hnyin baung, which is a breakfast dish that is served on a banana leaf and includes boiled peas (pèbyouk) or a variety of fritters, such as urad dal (baya gyaw).
Glutinous rice is used to make the traditional dish Latte/Chamre during the Teej festival, which is the biggest festival for Nepalese ladies.
Sticky rice, or bora saul, is the main component of Assamese breakfast, snacks, and sweets.
This rice is widely used in Assamese traditional sweets, which differ significantly from Indian sweets that primarily involve milk.
Glutinous rice is referred to as khao nueng in northern Thailand and khao niao in central Thailand and Isan.
The traditional staple meal of the Lanna and Isan peoples of the north and northeast of Thailand is sticky rice.
While those who have been influenced by the Khmer-Thai people in the south, center, and northeast of Thailand favor non-sticky khao chao.
There are also many dishes in Thailand that are made with glutinous rice, like the famous among tourists in Thailand, khao niao mamuang, or sweet coconut sticky rice with mango.
There is also this Khao niao na krachik, which is delicious sticky rice with toasted, caramelized coconut shavings on top.
In Vietnamese, glutinous rice is referred to as gạo nếp. In Vietnam, sticky rice-based foods are frequently served as sweets or sides, while some can also be eaten as main courses.
Vietnamese cuisine also features a huge variety of dishes made using sticky rice.
What’s the difference between glutinous rice and white rice?
The main difference between glutinous rice and white rice is that glutinous rice is sticky while white rice is not.
This is because glutinous rice contains a higher amount of amylopectin, which is a type of starch that is highly soluble in water.
Glutinous rice also has a nuttier flavor that is more pronounced than the flavor of white rice.
Lastly, glutinous rice is typically used in desserts and sweet dishes, while white rice is used in savory dishes.
So if you’re looking for a delicious and unique way to add flavor and texture to your favorite dishes, then glutinous rice is the way to go!
What’s the difference between glutinous rice and glutinous rice flour?
Glutinous rice, sometimes referred to as sticky rice or sweet rice, is any variety of rice with a high concentration of amylopectin starch and a low concentration of amylose starch.
Glutinous rice flour, on the other hand, is made by grinding cooked and dehydrated kernels of long or short-grain glutinous rice to create flour.
Glutinous rice flour is the same as sweet rice flour, and gluten-free.
It is used to make tang yuan, Hawaiian butter mochi, and Japanese mochi (Chinese sweet rice dumplings).
Glutinous rice: popular pairings
Glutinous rice is often paired with sweet and savory dishes.
When it comes to sweets, glutinous rice is commonly used in desserts that are served with coconut milk or syrup.
For savory dishes, glutinous rice is often paired with meats, vegetables, and soup.
Here are some of the best glutinous dishes that you surely don’t want to miss!
Thai sticky rice with mangoes
Traditional Thai street food, mango sticky rice is also a well-liked restaurant dessert. With coconut milk and local mangoes, this variation is simple to prepare at home.
Chinese glutinous rice dumplings
Zhongzi, or Chinese sticky rice dumplings, are made of bamboo leaves and sticky glutinous rice that has been steamed or boiled until it is soft and filled with either a sweet or savory filling.
Japanese mochi balls
The Japanese rice cake known as mochi is produced with mochigome, a short-grain variety of sticky rice, and occasionally additional ingredients including water, sugar, and cornstarch.
The rice is ground into a paste and shaped whichever you choose.
Korean sweet rice cakes
Popular Korean rice cake known as injeolmi is the ideal combination of soft, chewy, nutty, and gently sweet.
In less than 10 minutes, you can prepare this delicious gluten-free, vegan delight at home using just a microwave.
Using sticky rice, coconut milk, and black sugar, biko is a thick, chewy rice cake popular in the Philippines.
Biko is a rice cake-only treat known as kakanin that is typically served in a round, shallow bamboo tray called a bilao that is lined with banana leaves.
No matter how you choose to enjoy glutinous rice, one thing is for sure–it’s a delicious and versatile ingredient that is sure to please everyone’s taste buds!
Where to eat glutinous rice
Glutinous rice-based dishes and desserts are prevalent in East and Southeast Asian countries, so when you’re there, it’s not difficult to find a dish.
After all, who can resist making such delectable sticky rice dishes?
You can also find them in any Asian grocery stores or malls, in most restaurants and from street vendors.
However, if you’re currently in the US or elsewhere outside Asia, try to find a specialized Asian store that sells rice-based desserts.
Or your can also try to make some of the amazing dishes at home by buying a pack of glutinous rice online and following a sticky rice recipe like Filipino sweet ginataang monggo.
The etiquette of eating glutinous rice
When glutinous rice is served whole, it is customary to use chopsticks to break off a small piece, dip it into the accompanying sauce or gravy, and then pop the whole thing into your mouth.
If glutinous rice is being served as part of a dish like sticky rice dumplings or sticky mango rice, it is considered polite to use a spoon to scoop up a small portion onto your plate before eating it with your chopsticks.
When glutinous rice is being eaten as part of a meal, it is perfectly acceptable to pick up a piece of rice with your chopsticks and eat it on its own.
However, if you are eating glutinous rice as part of a dish, it is considered more polite to eat it along with the other food on your plate.
Glutinous rice is a delicious and versatile ingredient that can be enjoyed in many different ways.
Whether you’re eating it on its own or as part of a dish, following these simple etiquette guidelines will help you enjoy your glutinous rice experience to the fullest!
Is glutinous rice healthy?
Yes, glutinous rice is healthy. It is a good source of carbs and fiber and has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
Additionally, glutinous rice contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamins B and D, potassium and phosphorus that are beneficial for health.
If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, glutinous rice is the perfect ingredient to satisfy your cravings.
From sticky rice cakes to glutinous rice pudding, there are endless possibilities when it comes to glutinous rice dishes and desserts.
So what are you waiting for? Get cooking and enjoy a delicious glutinous rice dessert today!
This colorful Filipino Sapin-Sapin sticky-rice cake is sure to impress your dinner guests!
Check out our new cookbook
Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.
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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.