Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mailbag: Glutinous rice

I love receiving mail from my readers! One of my readers sent me the following message:
I figure you probably already know, but I did read somewhere that Japanese "Glutenous" rice is actually low in gluten or free of it... you may want to double check, but its supposedly unlike other rice in that way.
I thought this was a great opportunity to talk about rice in general, and glutinous rice in more detail.

"Glutinous rice," otherwise known as "sweet rice," is a special type of rice that sticks together when it's cooked. (Unlike, say, long grain instance rice in which there's pretty much no hope of it sticking together). Like other types of rice, it doesn't actually contain gluten, but it's called "glutinous" because well, it acts a lot like gluten does. It's sticky and binding, which makes it great for things like sushi (when you really want the rice to stick together in a ball and not fall apart when it touches soy sauce).

In the same, glutinous spirit, sweet rice flour is often used to hold things together. The sweet rice flour that I buy has a consistency very similar to corn starch. I'll keep a bag of sweet rice flour on hand, for the following uses:
  • Gluten free roux
  • Add a tablespoon or two when your dough has too much moisture
  • I've heard it's good in cakes and pie crusts, but I haven't tried this so far.
You can pick up sweet rice flour locally at the Green Grocer, and I'd imagine many of the other natural food stores in the area, or Asian supermarkets.

What do you use glutinous rice/sweet rice flour for?

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