pearl rice

Glutinous rice

Glutinous rice (Oryza sativa var. glutinosa or Oryza glutinosa; also called sticky rice, sweet rice, waxy rice, botan rice, mochi rice, and pearl rice) is a type of short-grained Asian rice that is especially sticky when cooked. It is called glutinous (< Latin glūtinōsus) in the sense of being glue-like or sticky and not in the sense of containing gluten; on the other hand, it is called sticky but should not be confused with the other varieties of Asian rice that become sticky to one degree or another when cooked.


Glutinous rice is a type of rice grown in Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, China and Laos. An estimated 85% of Lao rice production is of this type. Records of this rice go back at least 1,100 years, in this region. The improved rice varieties that swept through Asia during the Green Revolution were non-glutinous and Lao farmers rejected them in favor of their traditional sticky varieties. Over time, higher-yield strains of glutinous rice have become available from the Laotian National Rice Research Programme. By 1999, more than 70% of the area along the Mekong River Valley were of these newer strains. According to legend in China, glutinous rice has been grown for at least 2,000 years. According to legend, it was used to make the mortar in the construction of the Great Wall of China, and chemical tests have confirmed that this is true for the city walls of Xian. It is used in recipes throughout Southeast and East Asia.


Glutinous rice does not contain dietary gluten (i.e. does not contain glutenin and gliadin), and thus should be safe for gluten-free diets. What distinguishes it from other types of rice is having no (or negligible amounts of) amylose, and high amounts of amylopectin (those are the two components of starch). Amylopectin is responsible for the sticky quality of glutinous rice. The difference has been traced to a single mutation that was selected for by farmers.

Glutinous rice can be used either milled or unmilled (that is, with the bran removed or not removed). Milled rice is white in color, whereas the bran can give unmilled glutinous rice a purple or black color. (However, black/purple glutinous rice is a distinct strain from white glutinous rice.) Both black and white glutinous rice can be cooked as grains or ground into flour and cooked as a paste.

Foods made from glutinous rice

Chinese traditions

In Chinese, glutinous rice is known as nuòmǐ (糯米).

The Chinese dish, nuòmǐ fàn (糯米飯), is steamed glutinous rice usually cooked with Chinese sausage, chopped Chinese mushrooms, chopped barbecue pork and optionally dried shrimp or scallop (recipe varies depending on the cook's preference).

Zongzi is a Chinese dumpling consisting of glutinous rice and sweet or savory fillings wrapped in leaves which is then boiled or steamed, commonly eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival. Lo mai gai is a parcel of glutinous rice and chicken wrapped in lotus leaves and steamed. It is served as a dim sum dish in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. Ba bao fan (八寶飯) or "eight treasure rice" is a dessert made from glutinous rice steamed and mixed with lard, sugar, and eight kinds of fruits or nuts.

Glutinous rice is also often ground to make glutinous rice flour. This flour is then made into niangao and sweet filled dumplings tangyuan, both of which are commonly eaten at Chinese new year. It also sometimes used as a thickener and for baking.

Japanese traditions

In Japan, glutinous rice is known as mochigome (もち米). It is used to make mochi, a traditional rice cake prepared for the Japanese New Year but also eaten year-round. See also Japanese rice.

Korean traditions

In Korea, glutinous rice is called chapssal (Hangul: 찹쌀), and its characteristic stickiness is called chalgi (Hangul: 찰기). Cooked rice made of glutinous rice is called chalbap (Hangul: 찰밥) and rice cakes (Hangul: 떡, ddeok) are called chalddeok or chapssalddeok (Hangul: 찰떡, 찹쌀떡). Chalbap is used as stuffing in [[samgyetang](삼계탕)].

Laotian and Thai traditions

Glutinous rice is the main rice eaten in Laos, Northern Thailand, and the northeast Thai Isan region. In Lao, Thai and Isan, glutinous rice is kao neaw (Lao ເຂົ້າໜຽວ, Thai ข้าวเหนียว Northern Thai ข้าวนึ่ง) : "kao" means rice, and "neaw" means sticky. It is cooked by soaking for several hours and then steaming in a bamboo pot (Thai หวด). After that, it should be turned out on a clean surface and kneaded with a wooden paddle: this results in rice balls that will stick to themselves but not to fingers. The large rice ball is kept in a small basket made of bamboo (Thai กระติบ). The rice is sticky but dry, rather than wet and gummy like non-glutinous varieties. The fingers of the right hand are used to eat it by wadding the rice. Two of the most popular dishes are gai yaang and tam mak houng (Thai Isan ตำหมากหุ่ง, better known in the West by the standard Thai name som dtam). Gai yaang is grilled chicken, while tam mak hung is a spicy papaya salad, which does not actually contain glutinous rice, but is accompanied by glutinous rice.

The northern Thais consume glutinous rice as part of their main diet, as do the Laotians. Some of the older Thais prefer glutinous rice to other rice varieties. Lao people also use toasted glutinous rice (kao kua) to add a nut like flavor to many dishes. It is used as the basis for the brewing of sato (Thai:สาโท), an alcoholic beverage also known as "Thai rice wine".

Kao neaw is also eaten with desserts. Kao neaw moon is Kao neaw steamed with coconut milk that can be served with ripened mango or durian. And kao neaw kluay is banana and kao neaw steamed together, usually with coconut milk.

Vietnamese traditions

Glutinous rice, known as gạo nếp in Vietnamese, is typically made into sweet desserts such as "chè" (when wet, i.e. chè đậu trắng), "bánh" (when dry and formed into a cake, whether using whole glutinous rice grains or the rice flour, and "Xôi" (when dry but not formed into a cake, i.e. xôi gấc). While not all che and bánh contain glutinous rice, all xôi do. It is also eaten during full moon and common during Tết (the Vietnamese New Year) and weddings due to the fact that it is used in sweets. It is often colored with food dye, as can be seen in the picture of xôi gấc, a primarily ceremonial dish made by cooking gac in glutinous rice, resulting in a bright orange dessert thanks to the natural color of the gac. Vietnamese also prepare glutinous rice cakes (bánh chưng). Glutinous rice can also be fermented, which results in alcoholic beverages known as rượu nếp and cơm rượu.

Filipino traditions

In the Philippines, glutinous rice is known as malagkit (literally "sticky" in Tagalog), glutinous rice flour is known as galapong. The rice grains are treated with a solution of lye and then dried, then the grains are poured into a banana leaf cone or coconut leaf wrapper and steamed. It may be mixed with sugar, coconut milk, or other grains such as millet. Glutinous rice cooked in coconut leaf or banana leaves wrappers are steamed to produce "suman," of which there are many varieties depending on the region. Some of the common toppings are "bukayo", grated mature coconut cooked in sugar, coconut jam, and freshly grated coconut. Some regions eat suman as a snack with ripe mangoes or bananas.

A general term for sweet rice cake, "bibingka" mainly consists of glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk. Another traditional Filipino snack very similar to Japanese mochi is called "palitao."

Another popular use of glutinous rice is a porridge-like dish with cocoa powder called champorado. Sugar and milk are usually added as condiments.

Burmese traditions

Glutinous rice, called kao hnyin, is very popular in Myanmar (formerly Burma).

  • Kao hnyin baung is a breakfast dish with boiled peas (pèbyouk) or with a variety of fritters such as urad dal (baya gyaw) served on a banana leaf. It may actually be cooked wrapped in a banana leaf often with peas and served with a sprinkle of salted toasted sesame and often grated coconut.
  • The purple variety known as nga cheik is equally popular cooked as ngacheik paung.
  • They may both be cooked and pounded into cakes with sesame called hkaw bouk, another favourite version in the north among the Shan and the Kachin and served grilled or fried.
  • Htamanè pwè (festival) takes place on the full moon of Dabodwè (February) when htamanè is cooked in a huge wok, requiring two men each with a wooden spoon the size of an oar and a third man co-ordinating the action of folding and stirring the contents which include kao hnyin, ngacheik, coconut shavings, peanuts, sesame and ginger in peanut oil.
  • Si damin is glutinous rice cooked with turmeric and onions in peanut oil and served with toasted sesame and crisp fried onions, a popular breakfast like kao hnyin baung and ngacheik paung.
  • Paung din is another ready-to-eat portable form cooked in a segment of bamboo, and when the bamboo is peeled off it retains a thin skin around giving off at the same time a distinctive aroma.
  • Mont let kauk is made from glutinous riceflour, donut-shaped and fried like baya gyaw but eaten with a dip of jaggery or palm sugar syrup.
  • Mont lone yei baw are glutinous rice balls with jaggery inside thrown into boiling water in a huge wok and ready to serve as soon as they resurface - a time-honoured tradition during Thingyan, the Burmese New Year festival.
  • Htoe mont, glutinous rice cake with raisins, cashews and coconut shavings, is a traditional dessert for special occasions and very much appreciated as a present from Mandalay.
  • La mont (lit. mooncake) is another Mandalay snack filled with either sugar or sweet bean paste.
  • Nga pyaw douk, banana in glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaf and steamed and served with grated coconut - another favourite snack sold by street hawkers like kao hnyin baung and mont let kauk.

Malaysian traditions

In Malaysia, glutinous rice is known as pulut, and it is usually mixed with santan, meaning coconut milk in Malay, along with a bit of salt to add some taste. It is widely used during the Raya festive seasons as traditional food, such as

  • Palas - cooked pulut wrapped in triangular shaped crafts made from local leaves and left to be boiled for 3 - 4 hours to result nice shaped compression and to bring out the aroma or taste from the wrapped leaves.
  • Lemang - wrapped in banana leaves and inside a bamboo, and left to be barbecued/grilled on an open fire, to make the taste and texture tender and unique
  • Ketupat - square shaped crafts made from the same local leaves as palas, but it is usually filled with regular rice grains instead of pulut, but it depends on the maker.
  • Lopes - glutinous rice wrapped in individual triangles using banana leaves and left to boil for a few hours. The rice pieces are then tossed with grated coconut all over and served with palm sugar syrup.

Pulut will also be used in certain famous kuih, traditional local desserts.

Beverages made from Glutinous rice

Other uses

In Malaysia Glutinous rice also used to make a cracker, or keropok in Malay, called inang-inang.

See also

External links


  • Alden, Lori. "Cook's Thesaurus: Rice." Lori Allen, 1996. 2 March 2006

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