Given the current craze with gluten-free diets, the first thing to know about glutinous rice is that it has nothing to do with gluten and, if you actually do have Celiac, you can safely consume it, as it contains no gluten. In fact, no rice contains gluten.
The word glutinous refers to the rice being sticky and gummy. It is also sometimes called waxy rice, sticky rice, or since it has a natural sweetness, sweet rice. This is the kind of rice used in the classic Thai dessert Sticky Rice with Mangoesand, if you’ve never tried it, you should. The two together are a perfect combo.
Recommended rice for Thai Sticky Rice and Mangoes: Three Ladies Brand Sanpatong Sweet Rice
The word glutinous is an unfortunate word since, most of the time, it doesn’t have anything to do with gluten, even though gluten can be said to be glutinous. Really, it is just an adjective that means something has the quality of glue. In fact, if you need to cook gluten free, you will probably seek out some glutinoussubstitutes, to bind things together!
The stickiness in glutinous rice comes from starch. There are two kinds of starch in cereal grains: amyloseand amylopectin. All grains have a mixture of both, but some are higher in one than the other. Sticky rice is high in amylopectin, and this is what contributes the stickiness.
Amylose starch is composed of long, single chains of glucose. This kind of starch easily bonds with water and with each other, so that they make a sort of gel that is great for thickening sauces, etc. The amylopectin molecules are not long chains but instead have many branches. They don’t bond with water so easily, or with each other, so they remain separate and provide the sticky consistency. The more amylopectin, the more stickiness. Keep in mind that all rice has amylopectin, so all rice can have some degree of stickiness, even if it’s only a little. The content is somewhere between 17 to 28 percent in all rice varieties.
Most all of the very sticky rices are short grains. In most countries, sticky rice is used for desserts and the non-sticky rice varieties are used for staple food. But people in some places eat sticky rice all the time, as in Loas, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Rice wine is usually brewed from sticky rice. Other names for glutinous rice, besides those above, are boton rice, biroin chal, mochi rice, pearl rice and pulut.