If you’ve ever been to an Asian country or at least to an Asian restaurant, you most likely have tasted rice cakes. These delicious desserts are made from sweet rice, also called glutinous rice. This grain variety shares great similarities with other sticky grains, which begs the question: Is sweet rice and sticky rice one and the same?
Japanese glutinous rice or simply called sweet rice is a cultivar of japonica rice. It’s popular in Asia, and it’s cultivated extensively in India, Bhutan, and other parts of Southeast Asia. This variety has grains that are opaque, shorter, and rounder. They are used to produce traditional sweets and rice crackers in most Asian countries.
When cooked, this Japanese short-grain rice becomes extremely sticky, chewy, and glutinous due to its low amylose concentration. It also has a subtly sweet flavor, making it perfect for desserts like mochi rice and pastries.
Sticky rice, also known as glutinous rice, is a staple in Asian cuisine. It is available in both long-grain and short-grain kinds and is commonly cooked in both sweet and savory recipes. This variety, despite its higher cost than normal white rice, is sought after for its sticky, glue-like consistency.
Different varieties of rice include two types of starch called amylose and amylopectin, and the ratio of the two determines how sticky the rice is. Sticky rice is defined as a short-grain or long-grain variety that has a high amylopectin content and a low amylose concentration. While longer white grains have a greater amylose concentration, short-grain white grains have a lower amylose level of 12 to 19 percent.
Sticky rice, on the other hand, has just 1% amylose and a high concentration of amylopectin, making it extremely sticky when cooked.
In comparison to its longer grain cousins, any small grain rice is considered sticky. This is because starch concentration varies from one kind of rice to the next.
That said, the sweet rice variety is a type of sticky grain that is mainly used for dessert recipes, side dishes, and occasionally, main dishes.
Unlike other grain types that have a long-grain, glutinous rice can easily be made into rice balls and can hold its shape better than your ordinary white rice, making it ideal for dessert recipes. The following are some of the most common varieties of glutinous rice:
This variety has a longer grain and has a more flowery aroma compared to the other glutinous rice varieties. Thai sticky rice with mango is one of the most popular recipes that use this type of grain.
These are Southeast Asian cultivars with whole grains. When uncooked, the bran is dark purple or black, with the bran turning the white inner endosperm dark purple when cooked.
Japanese sweet rice is one of the short-grain varieties with opaque grains that has a sweet flavor and a sticky texture that’s best used for sweets like mochi.
If we’re referring to the overall glutinous nature of these varieties, then they are both almost the same. However, the differences lie in how they are used. While sticky grains can be used for a variety of dishes, sweet rice is mostly suitable for sweet side dishes.
It depends on what recipe you’re going to use the sticky or glutinous rice for. If you’re planning on making savory dishes, then sweet rice might not be the best option. Mochi rice and other rice cake recipes all require long-grain glutinous rice or its shorter varieties to retain the recipe’s authenticity. While most recipes calling for sweet rice can be replaced with glutinous grains, doing the opposite isn’t advisable.
While they are all a type of glutinous grains, Thai sticky rice has longer grains while the latter has a more sticky texture.
This type of flour is starchy flour made from glutinous rice, particularly Japanese short-grain rice. Mochiko flour, also called sweet rice flour, is used for making mochi since it has the right consistency and glutinous texture
Despite its name, glutinous rice is gluten-free. Rice is gluten-free in all of its natural forms, whether white, brown, or wild. This makes glutinous grains a fantastic choice for those who are gluten-intolerant or allergic to gluten.
When making sticky rice, the variety most commonly used is the glutinous variety and other sticky grains.
Unlike white rice, the most traditional method of preparation for glutinous rice is steaming. However, because of the extended soak period, this approach takes longer. This method is ideal if you’re planning on making mochi rice.
You can steam sticky or glutinous rice in a variety using a bamboo steamer and a wok, or even using the steaming tray of your rice cooker. To have authentically cooked glutinous rice, follow these steps below: