Mochi rice is a type of short grain rice that is of the rice cultivars Oryza sativa or Oryza glutinosa. The rice may be alternately named pearl rice, sticky rice, glutinous rice, sweet rice or botan rice. The Japanese refer to this sticky rice as mochi rice — which despite the name glutinous rice does not contain gluten. Though the Japanese also enjoy less sticky forms of short grain rice, sticky rice is very special, and is used to make some traditional Japanese dishes.
In particular, mochi rice makes the Japanese dish, mochi — rice cakes that are pounded into a paste and formed into small cakes. Cakes made from mochi rice are traditionally eaten on the New Year, and they may have different variations. Mochi rice cakes stuffed with red bean paste are called daifuku, and if this cake also includes a strawberry it is called ichigo daifuku. Mochi rice can also be wrapped around ice cream, or be made into small balls to add to soups. One popular snack food is agemochi, dried deep fried mochi that can receive various flavorings like shichimi, a mix of chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seed, poppy seed, hemp seed, edible seaweed (nori) and sansho, another type of pepper.
Mochi rice is so sticky, as mentioned above, not because of gluten. It’s safe to eat for people who are on gluten-free diets. It does contain a high amount of a specialized form of glucose called amylopectin. Though it’s popular in Japan, its growth there is fairly limited. This type of rice though, is grown in numerous Asian countries, and is used in many different Asian cuisine recipes. Laos produces sticky rice, more than any other type of rice and it’s estimated that approximately 70% of the rice crop in Laos is of the sticky rice type.
In Chinese cuisine, sticky rice may be served as a dessert, and it’s also an essential ingredient in various dim sum recipes. Koreans add sticky rice to samgyetang, a ginseng flavored chicken soup. In Vietnam, sticky rice is often made into sweet confections, and Thai cooks may steam the rice in coconut milk, as in the dish Kao neaw moon.
You can get mochi rice from a few US growers, and many advocate its use in California Rolls. Sticky rice has a sweet flavor, which perhaps explains its use in so many candies and cakes. People in the US suggest that the rice is the hands down choice for super sweet and delicious rice pudding.