Rice is one of the main staple grains in China. They are incorporated in most dishes in the different Chinese cuisines. Aside from having different methods of preparing rice, there are also different varieties, among them being sticky rice. Sticky rice is a popular rice delicacy in China and is featured in many festivals.
But what makes it different from other rice varieties and where did it originate from? In this post, we will discuss what sticky rice is, how it came to be a delicacy in China and what differentiates it from other types of rice. We will also share its nutritional factors as well as how you can prepare it.
What Kind Of Rice Is Chinese Sticky Rice?
Sticky rice is simply the type of rice that becomes sticky when cooked. There are many varieties including glutinous rice, jasmine rice, and sushi rice. All three of them while sticky are different. Jasmine rice for example is sweeter and more fragrant compared to glutinous rice and is grown in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
In China sticky rice often refers to glutinous rice. The term glutinous comes from the sticky glue-like nature of the rice and not because the rice contains any gluten, which it does not. Also known as sweet or waxy rice, glutinous rice comes in many varieties including long-grain and short-grain.
Why Is Chinese Rice Sticky?
Aside from the way they are prepared, there are other differences between sticky rice and common rice. The biggest difference is their starch content. Starch is usually made up of two components, amylopectin, and amylose. The common rice grain contains both of these components in equal amounts. Sticky rice on the other hand has a significantly larger amount of amylopectin and an almost negligible amount of amylose.
When hot water mixes with the sticky rice, the high content of amylopectin causes the starch molecules to separate. This results in the stickiness of the rice when cooked. Therefore, glutinous rice owes its sticky glue-like nature to the unique starch composition of the rice.
History Of Chinese Sticky Rice.
Glutinous rice has been cultivated in China for over 2,000 years now. Research however shows that the Lao ethnic group has been cultivating it between 4,000-6,000 years ago. Sticky rice became popular in China because of Zongzi, a type of dumpling made with sticky rice. Zongzi can be traced as far back as the Spring-Autumn period, where it was prepared for special ceremonies of worshiping gods and the ancestors.
By the Jin dynasty, the Zongzi had become an important and iconic dish during the celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival. This came about as a result of a legend about a poet and government official called Qu Yuan, who was falsely accused and banished from the court. Unable to bear the fall of his people and the false accusations, he drowned himself in the Mi Luo river by tying a heavy rock to his leg.
Being a man of integrity, many people loved and respected him, and went out on their boats searching the entire river for his body. Unable to find it, they began throwing rice balls into the river so that the fish would feed on them instead of Yuan’s body. They would wrap the balls in leaves and tie them with red chords to prevent the dragons from eating them instead. This developed into a ritual that would take place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, later resulting in the Dragon boat festival.
How To Make Chinese Sticky Rice?
As we’ve mentioned, preparing regular rice is different from preparing sticky rice. For starters, sticky rice requires less water and more steaming than simmering water. Rice cookers are an easy way of making sticky rice because the high-end brands have a special setting for sticky rice. These cookers are, however expensive and not everyone can afford them.
The best and foolproof way is the soaking and steaming method. One thing to keep in mind when handling sticky rice is that it can get sticky, therefore, ensure your hands or serving tools are wet to prevent sticking. You can also line the steaming plate with parchment paper to avoid the same. Also, sticky rice tends to dry out and harden when left at room temperature to cool. So, always serve while hot or keep it warm before adding it to a recipe.
The following are the steps to follow while preparing the sticky rice:
Step 1: Soak the rice.
In a deep container or bowl pour your glutinous rice and pour in water until it is 3” above the rice. This is enough room for the rice to expand after soaking up the water. Let it soak for 6-24 hours or longer. The longer it soaks, the softer the texture.
Step 2: Prepare the steamer and rice for steaming.
Line a bamboo steamer or heat-proof rimmed plate with parchment paper or steamer liner. Drain the rice and even arrange it in the steamer or plate.
Step 3: Steam the rice.
If you’re using a plate then place it on a metal rack at the base of a deep pot with a few inches of water and cover. If you’re using a bamboo steamer, place it in a wok of water or tiered metal steamer and cover. Let the rice steam for 30-45 minutes. The larger the batch the longer the steaming time. Just keep checking the rice to see if it is ready. Once the sticky rice is ready, serve it while it is hot, and remember to keep the excess covered to avoid it drying out.
Chinese Sticky Rice Nutrition Facts.
One cup of sticky rice is about 169 calories. Of these calories, 90% (36.7g) are made up of carbohydrates, 9% (3.51g) of protein, and 2% (0.33g) of fat. The rice is also rich in potassium (17mg), calcium (3mg), sodium (9mg) and contains some iron (0.24mg).
Sticky rice is an important ingredient in many Chinese dishes. These include Zongzi (rice dumpling), Gao (sticky rice cake), and many other tasty desserts. You can enjoy these delicacies in various Chinese festivals like the Dragon Boat Festival as well as the Chinese New year. They are also part of the dishes of the 8 famous Chinese cuisines.