Sticky rice

Sticky rice or glutinous rice is the main type of rice grown and consumed by the Lao of Laos and Northeast Thailand, areas which are considered to be the primary center of origin and domestication of Asian rice (Oryza sativa L.). It has been cultivated in this area for 4,000 years. An estimated 85% of Lao rice production is of this type. Note that, despite the misleading name, glutinous rice does not actually contain any gluten.

In Thai, Lao and Isaan, sticky rice is kao neaw: "kao" means rice, and "neaw" means sticky.

The improved rice varieties that swept through Asia during the Green Revolution were non-glutinous types and Lao farmers rejected them in favour of their traditional sticky varieties. Gradually though, improved higher-yield strains of sticky rice became available from the Laotian National Rice Research Programme. By 1999, more than 70% of the area along the Mekong River Valley was of the newer strains.

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A packet of sticky rice in a traditional Isan banana-leaf wrapper

Laotian traditions

Sticky rice is usually served in a small basket made out of bamboo; the fingers of the right hand are used to eat it by wadding the rice. Two of the most popular dishes are gai yaang and tam mak hung (ตำหมากหุ่ง). Gai yaang is grilled chicken, while tam mak hung is a spicy papaya salad.

Kao neaw is also eaten with desserts. Kao neaw moon is Kao neaw steamed with coconut milk that can be served with ripened mango or durian. And kao neaw kluay is banana and kao neaw steamed together, usually with coconut milk.

Chinese traditions

The Chinese have adopted sticky rice as part of their diet, mostly in seasonal or holiday-related foods. For example, zongzi is a Chinese dumpling consisting of sticky rice and fillings steamed in leaves, usually eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival.

Japanese traditions

Mochi is a traditional dessert made of sticky rice, and is typically eaten during the Japanese New Year.

Vietnamese traditions

Sticky rice, known as xi (cooked) or nếp (uncooked) in Vietnamese, is most typically eaten during each full moon as offerings. It is also common during Tết, the Vietnamese New Year.

See also

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