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What is Japanese Sweet Rice or Glutinous rice?
Japanese glutinous rice or sweet rice (known as mochigome もち米 or mochi rice), is another type of short-grain cultivar of Japonica rice. The grains of glutinous rice is opaque, shorter, and rounder and they are typically used to make mochi (rice cakes) and traditional sweets like sekihan, and snacks like rice crackers.
Because of its low amylose content, glutinous rice becomes very sticky, chewier, and glutinous when cooked. It also has a sweet flavor, which makes them ideal in making sweets or cakes. Glutinous rice is also often ground into a fine flour to make mochiko (also called sweet rice flour or mochi flour). This flour is used for making dango (traditional Japanese sweet), mochi (rice cake), yatsuhashi (traditional sweet from Kyoto), and so on.
Differences between glutinous rice (sweet rice) and Japanese short-grain rice
Sometimes people tend to mix up glutinous rice with the regular Japanese short-grain rice which also has some sticky texture when cooked. To make it more confusing, some people even refer to both as ‘sticky rice’.
However, these are two different types of rice with different uses. The thing to remember is Japanese short-grain rice (sometimes called the ‘sushi rice’ in the US) is the one you need to make sushi, rice balls or any plain rice for Japanese meals. Glutinous rice is used mostly in making sweets and snacks, although some cultures such as Thailand and Vietnam do consume glutinous rice as staple rice in regular meals.
Can I substitute Japanese glutinous rice or sweet rice with other types of glutinous rice?
Japanese short-grain sweet rice/glutinous rice is NOT the same as Thai/Chinese long-grain glutinous rice. Mochi made of long-grain glutinous rice is more starchy and it’s not the same as Japanese mochi texture. I wouldn’t recommend substituting Japanese glutinous rice with Thai/Chinese variety).
Is glutinous rice gluten-free?
Although it is called glutinous rice due to its sticky or gluey texture, glutinous rice actually does not contain any gluten. It should be safe for a gluten-free diet.
Preparation for Japanese glutinous rice or sweet rice
Before cooking, you need to rinse the sweet rice and soak it in water for at least 1 hour to overnight to bring out the sticky texture.
Where to buy Japanese glutinous rice or sweet rice?
You can find Japanese glutinous rice or sweet rice at Japanese grocery stores or well-stocked Asian grocery stores. On the rice packages, the labels should indicate mochi gome or もち米 in Japanese characters.
Delicious Recipes Using Sweet Rice
Here are just some popular recipes using Japanese sweet rice: