How to Cook Chinese Sticky Rice

One of the most popular, but least appreciated varieties of rice is Chinese sticky rice. I eat it almost every time I go to my favorite Chinese restaurant, and I love the taste but I also love to cook with it because its so versatile

But, have you ever wondered how to enjoy sticky rice at home? Well, wonder no more because, in this article, I’m going to explain exactly how to cook great-tasting Chinese sticky rice just like you can find in the best restaurants.

Let’s get started.

Sticky Rice is Great!

Plain rice in a typical Japanese wooden tub hangiri

Plain rice, although a basic foodstuff can actually be quite a difficult substance to cook well. But, once you master the cooking process there’s no better, or more versatile food.

Now, regular readers will know that one of my favorite types of food is Chinese food? Whether its dumplings, rice cake, dim sum or something a bit more exotic (fried chickens feet!) there’s nothing that I like better that the exotic flavors, aromas, and textures of Chinese food 😛

So, it should also come as little surprise then to learn that one of my favorite varieties of rice is sticky rice. Especially because it’s widely used in Chinese cooking. Looking back through history, glutinous rice was always one of the most popular varieties of rice grains in East and South Asia and, particularly in China, where the ancient Chinese developed many wonderful dishes made from sticky rice.

Glutinous rice stands out, for me at least, because of its unique characteristics. It doesn’t contain amylose but, rather, it has a higher amount of amylopectin. In case you are wondering, these are both are starch components but it is amylopectin that is responsible for the stickiness.

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Some Sticky Trivia

chinese building

Did you know that sticky rice was used to construct ancient Chinese buildings? Yes, really!

Experts have uncovered the secret ingredient used in the extra-strong mortar that construction workers used in ancient China about 1,500 years ago and, yes, you’ve guessed it – it was sticky rice!

They actually mixed sticky rice soup with standard mortar because they knew that sticky rice is more resistant to water than pure lime.

So it not only tastes great – you can live in it as well – weird!

Traditional Cooking

Cauliflower rice and broccoli rice in bowl

Like lots of dishes, however, the secret to cooking the perfect Chinese sticky rice is to pick the best ingredients and to plan and prepare.

If you watch videos on YouTube and examine how some of the best chefs cook sticky rice, you will be struck by how intricate the methods are and how carefully they handle each ingredient.

Its probably because of this that sticky rice recipes are usually served at special events. Even in China you can see sticky rice dishes served more during special occasions such as the Chinese New Year.

I also love the fact that Chinese people believe that serving and eating sticky rice during the New Year will bring you good luck – so that’s another great reason to enjoy this dish.

One tasty variation is to create Niangao. To make this, glutinous rice is pounded to make flour which is then made into this famous Chinese New Year cake. Sticky rice flour is also used as a thickener or flour for baking.

How to Cook Traditional Chinese Sticky Rice

Although there are lots of great and diverse ways to cook sticky rice the best way, at least in my opinion, is still the classic cooking method – and it’s also one of the simplest! Simply soak your rice in water for at least 30 minutes and then cook it in a steamer!

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Soaking helps the rice release more starch and achieves a stickier consistency.

So, here’s the steps in full….

  1. Prepare a cup of sticky rice and place it in a bowl.
  2. Wash and rinse until the water runs clear
  3. Soak your rice in water – leave it soaking for at least 30 minutes but i prefer to leave it to overnight.
  4. Get a lotus leaf and place the rice into it or, if you can’t find lotus leaves, banana leaves are a great substitute. Wrap up the parcel of rice and place it into a bamboo steamer to cook.
  5. Steam the rice for around 20 minutes _ I like to check a couple of times to keep an eye on the consistency
  6. Serve or add in your favorite Chinese fillings

Tip: You can also fill the rice parcel with other ingredients like Lo Mai Gai as it cooks – this releases some amazing flavors.

Tasty Chinese Sticky Rice or Lo Mai Gai

Make steamed sticky rice dumpling at home
Make steamed sticky rice dumplings at home

As I said above, while your rice is steaming, you can prepare and cook the fillings on the side and then put them together inside the leaf parcel.

Then, you should wrap it well and steam it for another 20 minutes to seal in the flavors.

Lo Mai Gai is a popular sticky rice dish which is created by steaming rice in lotus leaves filled with chicken or pork belly and other tasty ingredients.

Whats The Best Way to Cook Sticky Rice?

Soaking overnight is the best way to achieve an authentic sticky rice consistency. However, it does take a bit of prep and planning and, if you are busy (who isn’t these days) then yo may not have the time to create the perfect dish using traditional methods.

So, how can you shortcut the process, and still get results that most Chinese restaurants would be happy to serve? Of course, you guessed you can cook Chinese sticky rice in your rice cooker!

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How to Cook Perfect Sticky Rice in Your Rice Cooker:

  1. Prepare and wash 2 cups of glutinous rice in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Add a tablespoon of oyster sauce, a dash of pepper and sesame oil, half a teaspoon of dark soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of Chicken powder, half a teaspoon sugar, and pour in hot water or stock just enough to cover the sticky rice mixture or at least an inch above the rice. Stir all the ingredients well, cover the bowl and let it sit for an hour.
  3. Halfway through, let’s begin cooking the fillings. Start by sauteeing thinly sliced mushrooms, chopped onions, and a pinch of salt. Stir until onions become transparent.
  4. Add minced garlic and thinly-sliced pork. Saute until the pork is almost brown. Put at least 2 tablespoons of marinade stock into your fillings. Let it simmer until meats are tender.
  5. Now pour the rice mixture into the rice cooker inner pot. Make sure the marinade water reaches the 2 cup level on the measuring line.
  6. Toss in the sauteed ingredients, stir, and turn on rice cooker. Wait until it switches to the keep warm mode.
  7. Season with some spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve!


So, there you have it. Everything (I know) about sticky rice. Hopefully, you will now have a better understanding of how to use this awesome ingredient to cook perfect tasting Chinese food

We’ve discovered how the right preparation and the right ingredients are the keys in ancient recipes. This is where technology immensely helped improve cooking processes. Rice cookers have evolved over time that they don’t only cater to cooking plain rice but also to various recipes whether ancient or modern.

Have you tried cooking Chinese sticky rice? Let me know how you did it by commenting below!

Hopefully, you enjoyed this post and, if you would like to find out more great ways to use your rice cooker, I have posts covering how to cook pasta, fish, or even lentils. Who knew that a rice cooker could be so versatile ?!

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