Rice is the most widely consumed staple food in the world. There are many different types of rice. You have long grain rice, short grain rice, Jasmine rice, Basmati rice, and many others. One variety, called sticky rice, is especially popular in South and East Asian cuisine, but isn’t as common in Asian-American cooking.
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It’s too bad because whether you’re making Thai-style khao niao mamuang or traditional Chinese zongzi, sticky rice is a real treat! Most supermarkets and Asian grocery stores these days will have plenty of kinds of rice to choose from, but you might be at a loss as to how to prepare this particular variety.
So what makes the rice sticky you may ask? Sticky rice is a common rice that is commonly grown in South-East Asia. Although there may be other types of rice that you can group into so-called ‘sticky rice’, true sticky rice is a different type of breed of rice all on its own, and commonly known as glutinous rice. Despite the name glutinous rice, it actually contains no gluten! People with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance can enjoy the many varieties of dishes that you can make with sticky rice.
Cooking sticky rice can seem to be a very complicated task. How do you get the right texture and consistency? True, you can boil the rice in a pot, or even more unconventional methods. But, the answer’s simple enough—use a rice cooker!
Cooking your rice
Sure, you could boil or steam your sticky rice, but purchasing a rice cooker is really the more convenient option. Preparing sticky rice the traditional way (steaming) can take up to a full day! Boiling rice can leave you with a huge mess to clean up, especially if you aren’t watching it carefully. Meanwhile, rice cookers are quick, hands-off, energy-efficient, and easy to clean and maintain. What’s not to love?
The best rice cookers
The Aroma Housewares Digital Rice Cooker and Vegetable Steamer is a great product. And with its reasonable price tag, this model offers excellent value for money. It has an 8-cup capacity, which should be sufficient for any get-together. The non-stick interior allows for hassle-free cleanup.
The Black and Decker 3-cup Dry/6 Cup Rice Cooker and Steamer is another cooker worth a mention that also comes with that reasonable price tag we’re always on the lookout for. A measuring cup, rice paddle, and a plastic steamer basket are all part of the deal!
If you want to spend a little more, the Zojirushi 5 ½ (uncooked) Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer will be a valuable addition to any home kitchen. This stainless steel cooker features “Fuzzy Logic” technology that ensures a consistent end product, and a retractable cord to keep everything neat and tidy.
The Hamilton Beach Digital Simplicity is a handsome looking machine, which can also handle a large amount of sticky rice. Fourteen cups at its maximum, in fact! But, if you are on your own, it will cook one cup just as easily. Whether you are cooking for one or 10 this rice cooker is a great addition to your kitchen appliance collection.
Cuisinart has a good reputation within the industry, and their CRC-400 Stainless Steel 4-cup rice cooker is a nice piece of kit. Its brushed steel finish and square shape will look good in a modern style kitchen, but it’s the great performance and value for money that sets this cooker apart from the rest. It can also be used to steam meat! This model comes with a stainless steel cooking basket, glass lid, rice paddle, and a measuring cup.
Recommended sticky rice dishes
Now that your sticky rice is ready to go, what sorts of delicious dishes can you make with it?
Sticky rice stir-fry makes a great main course. As you prepare your rice, fry up meat or tofu and vegetables in a wok. (Check out my recommendation on the best carbon steel wok.) Once the rice is cooked, add it to the frying pan along with your preferred Chinese sauces and spices (ginger, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper), and maybe some sweet white wine. Make your own pepper flakes with your own sun-dried chili peppers.
Zongzi dumplings, which consists of sticky rice and dates wrapped in banana leaves, are popular during Dragon Boat Festival celebrations. Japanese ohagi, or sweet rice balls, are favorites during spring and autumn festivities.
If you’re in the mood for dessert, why not try some khao niao mamuang? This decadent treat is a Thai rice pudding drenched in coconut milk and served with fresh mangoes. It’s a perfect, sweet treat on a summer evening!
Ginger is a great treat for your next Asian inspired meal. Learn how to crystallize ginger without sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions
If sticky rice doesn’t have any gluten, what makes it sticky?
The name glutinous rice can be misleading because unlike other root vegetables that have two starch components named amylose and amylopectin, glutinous rice just has one. It’s called amylopectin, and there is just a small amount detectable of amylose in glutinous rice. This type of starch is what makes the rice stick together and gives it its delicious flavor!
How long does sticky rice take to cook in a rice cooker?
Each rice cooker has a different time setting, and we recommend that you check the directions of the rice cooker you purchase! However, generally sticky rice takes about 15 – 20 minutes in a rice cooker. 10 minutes shorter than if you were to cook it on the stove, and even shorter than steaming it by hand!
What other tools can I use to cook rice?
If you want to go the more traditional method of cooking sticky rice, check out the sticky rice steamer and basket from Amazon. This set includes a sticky rice bamboo basket and aluminum cooker pot for a more traditional way to steam sticky rice. The bamboo weave basket is a durable, more natural alternative to a rice cooker!
For a traditional way to serve sticky rice, look no further than this Thai woven basket (Amazon) that is an authentic way to serve your meal!
If I can’t find or don’t have any sticky rice. What alternative rice is good to use?
Although there is no real substitute for short-grain glutinous rice, a short grain rice is going to be your best bet if you can’t find sticky rice! Short grain rice tends to have a higher starch content, therefore, will be stickier than medium grain or long grain rice. Examples of short grain rice breeds are sushi rice, CalRose rice, and short grain brown rice. Experiment and try different breeds if you can’t find glutinous rice, however, there is nothing better for sticky rice than glutinous rice! If you can’t find this breed of rice in your supermarket, try any Asian supermarket!
What other things can I cook in a rice cooker?
There are so many varieties of food that you can make in a rice cooker! For starters, grains are a great staple food to cook in bulk and have on hand when you want to eat them. Quinoa, oatmeal, and other grains can be put in your rice cooker. Remember just to follow instructions of your rice cooker! You can also cook and steam vegetables for a delicious side dish to any meal.
How do I store sticky rice?
We recommend that you eat sticky rice the same day that you cook it! However, you can store sticky rice for up to one to two days. Sticky rice gets stickier the longer you store it, so we recommend you make a new batch if you are not going to eat your rice within one to two days.
You can also freeze sticky rice! Just put it in a plastic bag and you can store it for up to two months.
As a family of 4, which rice cooker would suit me best?
A rice cooker is the perfect kitchen appliance for a family of any size! You can easily cook rice in bulk and store it in the freezer for whenever you need it. To cook in bulk, you want a rice cooker that can cook large quantities of rice in one go, which makes one less thing to worry about for your family meals!
We recommend the Hamilton Rice Cooker from Amazon, which can cook up to 8 cups of rice. You can also cook pre-packaged pasta and beans/hot cereals. It also has the amazing feature of a delay start timer, so head out to work and come home to a deliciously cooked meal for your entire family.
Should I rinse sticky rice before cooking?
Rinsing and washing rice takes out nutrients and some of the starch that is naturally occurring in rice. However, the starch left on the rice can provide a lot of flavor for those that enjoy it! If you would like to wash your rice before cooking, rinse your rise and drain the milky water. Rinse and repeat until the water is clear.
Rinsing your rice also may not be necessary depending on where you source your rice from! Most developed countries have rice that doesn’t need to be rinsed before cooking. Whatever your preference, you will surely love the taste of sticky rice, and all of the possible foods you can pair it with!
Tools for our diverse culinary landscape
Whatever dishes you choose to make with sticky rice, you’ll find plenty of ways to keep your new rice cooker busy.
Ready to invest in a wok? Why not go for a convenient electrical one? Here are my top recommendations.
Did you know you can also use a rice cooker to make oatmeal? Check out my review of the best rice cooker for oatmeal.