Made from glutinous rice, glutinous rice flour (another name is sticky rice flour) is a fundamental ingredient to make several traditional snacks in China. On the aspect of appearance, glutinous rice flour is similar to wheat flour or starch, but they are with different characteristics. Food made from glutinous rice flour is usually more sticky and chewy compared with food made from wheat flour, which is usually cooked into soft noodles, buns, bread, and cakes. And starch is often applied as a condiment to keep the meat tender or to thicken the soup in Chinese dishes. Due to the sticky flavor and unique fragrance, food made from glutinous rice flour is favored by many Chinese people.
What's glutinous rice or sticky rice
Glutinous rice sometimes called sweet sticky rice or sticky rice is a staple in many cuisines around the world. Its sticky and chewy consistency makes it an ideal sticky side dish in many Asian cuisines, including Japan, Thailand, and Chinese.
What’s glutinous rice flour (sticky rice flour)
Glutinous rice flour is made from glutinous rice with a special treating method named "水磨". To produce glutinous rice flour, firstly glutinous rice shall be immersed in water for about two to three hours until it can be easily mashed by hand. In rural areas in China, the local people often use a stone mill to smash glutinous rice into rice milk. The rice milk will be poured into a yarn bag which is hung up to drain the rice milk. When the water in the rice milk is drained after a few hours, glutinous rice flour is initially accomplished and then it will be dried in the sun for long-time storage.
What does glutinous rice flour taste like
Glutinous rice flour has a unique flavor that can best be described as slightly sweet and nutty. The taste is subtle but definitely present in dishes made with flour. It is a very light sweetness if you chew them only for a longer time. It is quite sticky because of the large amount of Amylopectin starch.
Glutinous rice flour can be cooked into various delicacies, which are usually in a sweet, chewy, and sticky taste in general. Food made of glutinous rice flour is delicate and attractive, but it is a bit hard to digest because of its sticky texture. Therefore, it is recommended that people with poor digestive functions should not take too much food made from glutinous rice flour, especially children and old people.
Is glutinous rice flour gluten-free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and hybrids. Though from its name it seems that glutinous rice flour contains gluten. The truth is that glutinous rice flour is gluten-free. Glutinous rice flour is made of glutinous rice, a grain of no gluten. So food fully made of glutinous rice flour is suitable for people who are allergic to gluten.
How to use glutinous rice flour in cooking
The iconic snacks made of glutinous rice flour include glutinous rice balls, rolling donkey - a sticky rice ball with red bean paste, and deep-fried sesame balls. But there are also many desserts made from glutinous rice flour including mochi, glutinous rice dumplings, and glutinous rice cake.
The small sticky rice balls are widely served in milk tea, red bean soup, and other Chinese desserts.
On the 15th of the first lunar month, a traditional Chinese festival is celebrated, which is known as Yuan Xiao Jie in Chinese and translated as the Lantern Festival. It is the time for people to admire lanterns, guess lantern riddles, and watch lion or dragon dances. Another important tradition of the festival is eating glutinous rice balls, known as yuan xiao or tangyuan. Traditional glutinous rice balls are originally small white balls, but nowadays glutinous rice balls in rainbow colors are also available. And they are often filled with red bean paste, black sesame paste, or mashed peanuts, and cooked in sweet soups or flavored with sweet rice wine. The round shape of glutinous rice balls has the auspicious connotation of reunion and being together.
Rolling donkeys (lvdagun) date back to the Qing Dynasty and were only served by royal families in the Forbidden City at first. Later the cooking method of the snack was spread to street restaurants and the snack gradually turned to be a traditional Beijing snack. Rolling donkeys are in yellowish color and are sweet and sticky with a very delicious bean flavor. Rolling donkeys are steamed glutinous rice rolls filled with red bean paste or brown sugar that are then rolled and covered in a soybean flour crumble.
Sesame seed balls are also a kind of fried food made of glutinous rice flour. They are often filled with red bean paste, rolled in white sesame seeds, and then put into cooking oil to be fried. With a crispy cover outside and soft and sweet fillings inside, they are often taken as breakfast by the Chinese people.
Except for the above-mentioned snacks, glutinous rice flour is widely used in numerous delicacies in other regions of the world, such as the traditional Japanese desserts Daifuku and Mochi, etc.
Mochi is another widely enjoyed dish made using glutinous rice flour. Mochi is essentially a type of Japanese dumpling that’s traditionally eaten during Japanese New Year celebrations or given as gifts on occasions like weddings or birthdays. Mochi is usually filled with different kinds of fillings such as red bean paste or sesame paste before being wrapped in a thin layer of sticky mochi dough which is made from pounded sticky rice cakes mixed with sugar, water, and sometimes other ingredients like fruit or nuts for extra flavor. In Chinese cuisine, we have a similar version called nuomichi, usually served with coconut attached.
Snow skin mooncake is a new raising food for Chinese Mid-Autumn day. It is made of sticky rice flour and filled with various sweet pastes. It has a very unique taste that you won't find in traditional mooncakes. The wrapper is a steamed sticky rice flour batter.
Nian Gao cake also comes in many different shapes and sizes. But there are two types of Nian Gao in China: the white Nian Gao stick and the brown Nian Gao Cake. One is the white one and the other is a brown sugar-colored year cake. The white Nian Gao is free of sugar and can be used in soups, stir-frying, and many other dishes. While the brown sugar-colored version usually contains a large amount of sugar, it can be served directly or after being pan-fried.
Rice flour vs Glutinous rice flour
Rice flour and glutinous rice flour with be quite confusing if you are not familiar with them. The ingredients to make rice flour and glutinous rice flour are completely different. Rice flour is made of rice, a staple food for most Chinese people. Glutinous rice flower is made of glutinous rice, another type of grain that is usually cooked into snacks. Glutinous rice flour is a kind of fine powder, which feels soft and smooth, however, rice flour is usually processed into small particles, which feel rough. Also, rice flour shares no similarity in the character of stickiness. With water added, glutinous rice flour can be easily shaped. Lack of stickiness, rice flour can hardly be shaped. In Chinese cuisine, rice flour is often used to cook steamed dishes, like steamed pork with rice flour, steamed spareribs with rice flour or steamed potatoes, and so on.