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Glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice, is a variety of short grain rice found often in Southeast and East Asian cuisines. In spite of its name, like most rice, glutinous rice is actually gluten free. It’s distinct from the common white rice you find in sushi or plated alongside your Mongolian beef; it’s sweeter, stickier, and also a lot of fun to eat.
Glutinous rice works well in both savoury and sweet dishes. In Laos and Northern Thailand you will find it as a daily staple, formed into neat rounds with your hands and used as a dipping vessel for rich sauces. And surely you have tried sticky rice with mango and coconut or mochi. The latter gets its chewy texture from sticky rice flour, as does Chinese New Year Cake.
Making glutinous rice at home is not difficult at all. But first, choose your rice carefully because not all rices are the same. Sushi rice, risotto (or arborio) rice, long-grain basmati or jasmine are just not going to work as substitutes. Head over to any Asian grocer and look in the Thai foods section for 'Glutinous Rice', it will be easiest to find it there. And grab a mango and some coconut milk whilst you are at it.
How to Cook Glutinous Rice
Sweet rice or glutinous rice is traditionally steamed rather than boiled. You must soak the rice overnight in cold to room temperature water; this is an essential step to get fluffy, pillowy results.
For home cooked glutinous rice using the steamer, you need to:
- soak the rice in water overnight, or up to 24 hours
- drain the rice, pour into a steamer basket (a woven bamboo steamer works well here)
- boil a few inches of water in a large pot, place the basket over the top so that it is not actually touching the water
- cover and steam for 20 minutes
- gently fluff up the rice to mix the rice on the lower layer with that on the top and let steam for a further 5 minutes.
The glutinous rice is ready warm or cooled, as you prefer.
How to Cook Glutinous Rice in a Rice Cooker
Glutinous rice can also be cooked in the rice cooker. Soak 2 cups of rice in 2 1/2 cups of water directly inside the rice cooker. Let is stand for up to 24 hours. Most rice cookers have an automatic timer, so use it; it should take around 15-20 minutes to cook.
How to Cook Black Glutinous Rice
Glutinous rice comes in different shades, from white to brown and almost black. Black glutinous rice takes on a nutty flavour and gives off a rich, burgundy colour when cooked, and can add a dash of drama to any sticky rice recipe.
If you can find black glutinous rice, use it in place of white sticky rice in any dish. As with any rice, black rice readily absorbs the flavours of other ingredients in the dish, and the nuttiness is a pleasant addition whether you accompany it with meat, vegetables or even sweet coconut milk. The cooking method remains the same - cook black sticky rice in the rice cooker or on the stove in a steamer using the methods mentioned above.
Glutinous Rice Recipes
Try your hand at these recipes inspired by the popular dishes from Thailand to Japan using glutinous rice.
Who doesn't like coconut and mango? Go ahead and try this classic Thai dessert that everyone will fall in love with. Here we add nectarines as well as mango, but feel free to mix and match with your favourite fruit. We think kiwi, banana, strawberry and passionfruit can work well also.
Ever wondered how to make those chewy rice cakes found at Japanese grocery stores? Find out how to make mochi, flavoured with green tea powder (matcha). Head over to any Asian grocer or online to find matcha. Matcha powder is available in different grades, broadly 'ceremony grade' and 'culinary grade', but the latter should work fine for the purposes of this recipe (and will also set you back less).
Rice, coconut, tumeric, and more coconut! Sticky rice balls are filled with a cooked rice filling flavoured with tumeric and coconut, then doused in shredded coconut. This recipe features three different types of rice and rice flour, and are super fun to make.