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Glutinous rice (Oryza sativa var. glutinosa; also called sticky rice, sweet rice or waxy rice) is a type of rice grown mainly in Southeast and East Asia, Northeastern India and Bhutan which has opaque grains, very low amylose content, and is especially sticky when cooked. It is widely consumed across Asia.

It is called glutinous[1] in the sense of being glue-like or sticky, and not in the sense of containing gluten (which it does not). While often called sticky rice, it differs from non-glutinous strains of japonica rice which also become sticky to some degree when cooked. There are numerous cultivars of glutinous rice, which include japonica, indica and tropical japonica strains.


In China, glutinous rice has been grown for at least 2,000 years.[2]


Glutinous rice is grown in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Northeast India, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines. An estimated 85% of Lao rice production is of this type.[3] The rice has been recorded in the region for at least 1,100 years.

The improved rice varieties (in terms of yield) adopted throughout Asia during the Green Revolution were non-glutinous, and Lao farmers rejected them in favor of their traditional sticky varieties. Over time, higher-yield strains of glutinous rice have become available from the Lao National Rice Research Programme. By 1999, more than 70% of the area along the Mekong River Valley were of these newer strains.


Glutinous rice is distinguished from other types of rice by having no (or negligible amounts of) amylose, and high amounts of amylopectin (the two components of starch). Amylopectin is responsible for the sticky quality of glutinous rice. The difference has been traced to a single mutation that was selected for by farmers.[2][4]

Like all types of rice, glutinous rice does not contain dietary gluten (i.e. does not contain glutenin and gliadin), and should be safe for gluten-free diets.

Glutinous rice can be used either milled or unmilled (that is, with the bran removed or not removed). Milled glutinous rice is white and fully opaque (unlike non-glutinous rice varieties, which are somewhat translucent when raw), whereas the bran can give unmilled glutinous rice a purple or black color.[5] Black and purple glutinous rice are distinct strains from white glutinous rice. In developing Asia, there is little regulation, and some governments have issued advisories about toxic dyes being added to colour adulterated rice. Both black and white glutinous rice can be cooked as discrete grains, or ground into flour and cooked as a paste or gel.


In the Philippines, glutinous rice is known as malagkit in Tagalog or pilit in Visayan, among other names. Both meaning "sticky". The most common way glutinous rice is prepared in the Philippines is through soaking uncooked glutinous rice in water or coconut milk (usually overnight) and then grinding it into a thick paste (traditionally with stone mills). This produces a rich and smooth viscous rice dough known as galapóng, which is the basis for numerous rice cakes in the Philippines. However, in modern preparation methods, galapong is sometimes made directly from dry glutinous rice flour (or from commercial Japanese mochiko), with poorer-quality results.[6]

Galapong was traditionally allowed to ferment, which is still required for certain dishes. A small amount of starter culture of microorganisms (tapay or bubod) or palm wine (tubâ) may be traditionally added to rice being soaked to hasten the fermentation. These can be substituted with yeast or baking soda in modern versions.[7][6] Other versions of galapong may also be treated with wood ash lye.

Aside from the numerous white and red glutinous rice cultivars, the most widely used glutinous rice heirloom cultivars in the Philippines are tapol and pirurutong rice, both of which have colors ranging from purple, reddish brown, to almost black. However both varieties are expensive and becoming increasingly rare, thus some Filipino recipes nowadays substitute it with dyed regular glutinous rice or infuse purple yam (ube) to achieve the same coloration.[8][9][10]

Dessert delicacies in the Philippines are known as kakanin (from kanin, "prepared rice"). These were originally made primarily from rice, but in recent centuries, the term has come to encompass dishes made from other types of flour, including corn flour (masa), cassava, wheat, and so on. Glutinous rice figures prominently in two main subtypes of kakanin: the puto (steamed rice cakes), and the bibingka (baked rice cakes). Both largely utilize glutinous rice galapong. A notable variant of puto is puto bumbong, which is made with pirurutong.

Other kakanin that use glutinous rice include suman, biko, and sapin-sapin among others. There is also a special class of boiled galapong dishes like palitaw, moche, mache, and masi. Fried galapong is also used to make various types of buchi, which are the local Chinese-Filipino versions of jian dui. They are also used to make puso, which are boiled rice cakes in woven leaf pouches.

Aside from kakanin, glutinous rice is also used in traditional Filipino rice gruels or porridges known as lugaw. They include both savory versions like arroz caldo or goto which are similar to Chinese-style congee; and dessert versions like champorado, binignit, and ginataang mais.


  1. Oxford English Dictionary. glutinous, a. Second Edition. 1989. Online edition. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite pressrelease
  3. Delforge, Isabelle (2001). Laos at the crossroads.
  4. Kenneth M. Olsen and Michael D. Purugganan (1 October 2002). "Molecular evidence on the origin and evolution of glutinous rice". Genetics. 162 (2): 941–950. PMC 1462305. PMID 12399401.
  5. Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas. The Cambridge World History of Food. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Amy Besa & Romy Dorotan (2014). Memories of Philippine Kitchens. Abrams. ISBN 9781613128084. 
  7. The Invention of Happiness.
  8. Pirurutong at Tapol / Purple and White Glutinous Rice.
  9. Purple, Red and White Malagkit / Sticky Rice.
  10. Misa de Gallo and Puto Bumbong Pre-amble….

External links

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