Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Sep 4, 2006 10:24 PM

Sticky rice - which cultures eat which sort?

I know that only a few places/areas rely on sweet/sticky rice as a staple grain, but I'm I'm trying to sort out which Asian cultures use the long grain sticky rice prevalent in Thailand/Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam, and which use the round, short-grain kind I associate with Japan. To the extent it's used in China (lion's head meatballs springs to mind), is one type dominant or does it vary a lot by region? How about Korea? Does anyone use both types with regularity?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. (I can't edit posts from this platform.)

    By that last "anyone" I meant "country/culture/region."

    1. Koreans eat short/medium grain white rice, though rice/grain mixes are also fairly common.

      There's rice in lion's heads?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Humbucker

        Koreans eat lots of different kinds of rice. Medium-grain white rice is for special occasions, though now it's primarily what a lot of people eat. Kind of like white bread, I think. Growing up, my mom never let us eat plain white rice, it was always purply with beans or with a whole grain mixed in. There's a kind of rice that's sort of sticky, not as sticky as "sticky rice" in other kinds of Asian cuisines, with a slightly sweet flavor that I love. I've seen it primarily used in stuffing chickens for sam-gye-tang, chicken soup with ginseng.

        I've also often thought that regular Chinese rice is less sticky than the usual Korean rice, which explains why they eat rice differently. Chinese people hold their rice bowls while they eat; Koreans leave the bowl on the table. My friend's Chinese father found it the hard way when he lifted a metal bowl of hot rice in a Korean restaurant.

        1. re: AppleSister

          But oddly enough the Japanese use pretty much the same kind of rice as the Koreans (short grain), yet they eat with the bowls raised in their hands like the Chinese.

      2. I don't mean what they eat as the staple grain - I think the only places sweet rice is staple grain are Cambodia, maybe Laos, and parts of central Thailand, and they use long grain varieties. I meant: when the others use sweet rice at all, which sort? The Japanese use a short-grain, almost round variety and I think that's what's used in China, too, at least in the northeast. I was wondering about the other areas and countries, too.

        What happened is I inadvertently bought a bag of the short-grain variety when I really wanted long-grain. Apart from figuring out what I'm going to do with it now (I don't really like short grain rices much), it got me thinking about who uses which, for what purposes.

        Lion's heads have a light coating of sweet/sticky rice on the outside of the meatballs. I've always heard that it represents the lion's "mane." I think they use a short, round grain variety for that, but I'm not sure.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MikeG

          As far as I know, lion's heads do not have rice on the outside. The "mane" is the napa cabbage cooked in a broth with the meatballs, which float around the meatballs like a mane. That's not to say that maybe in some restaurants or parts of China they don't make ricey lion's heads. I just haven't come across that.

          "Pearl" meatballs, which are a little smaller than a golf ball are studded with short grain glutinous rice.

          1. re: MikeG

            Rice is a grain that goes full spectrum from very glutinous to not at all glutinous, so it's sometimes hard to categorize. The very glutinous (sticky, or "sweet") rice is indeed a staple in Laos (don't know about Cambodia), but they do also use regular, non-glutinous rice in dishes of Chinese origin, or if the dish has a sauce (because glutionous rice falls apart when sauced - the grains no longer stick to each other). In other Asian countries the use of sticky rice seems to be limited to special treats or festival foods.

            Length of grain is another matter, although I have never seen a truly long-grain glutinous rice. That said, the sticky rice used in Laos does have a longer grain than the very short-grained "mochi" used in Japan. Stickiness is caused by the proportions of various starches in the rice, not strictly speaking the length of the grain itself (although there does seem to be some correlation). Here's a link to a Wikipedia article on the matter:

          2. Thanks, Pei, it's more likely that I confused the two - or maybe am remembering a description from a confused cookbook author...

            Otherwise, it turned out that my copy of the Alford and Duguid rice book wasn't as deeply buried as I thought, and that cleared up a lot of country questions I had. I'd looked at several websites, but the info I found was vague about which species of rice they were talking about - generally just using the broad but not very accurate "glutinous rice" for all of them...

            Anyway, according to Alford & Duguid, the long grain sticky rice is used in China only in a fairly small area, elsewhere they use the very small, round-grained japonica types when they use sticky rice at all. It seems the long-grain, waxy rices are used as a staple grain all but exclusively in part of central Thailand and to greater or lesser degrees on Indochinese peninsula (or whatever it's called these days.)

            Also, to clear up the long-grain issue - it's more a description of shape than absolute size. Any rice that's 3x or more longer than it is wide is considered "long-grain." So even the very tiny govindobug (sp?) Indian basmati type is considered long-grain, even though the grains themselves are only a couple of millimeters long. The Thai sticky rice is shorter than American long grain and even Jasmine rice, but definitely "long and thin" rather than plump and round.

            1. In Northeastern Thailand (Isaan), where there is more Lao influence and a lot less water for agriculture, sticky rice is the main rice grown and consumed. In the rest of Thailand, sticky rice seems to be used primarily in desserts (e.g., mango or durian with sticky rice), or with Isaan-style street foods (e.g., fried and BBQ chicken). I don't think of this steamed, chewy rice as being naturally sweet, but I suppose compared with Jasmine rice it might be sweeter.