Why do rice cakes hold together? Is there a secret binding agent?

Oota Box

  • Posted 5 years ago
  • Fun Food Facts

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Have you wondered how rice cakes are made and managed to be kept together, what would seem to be fragile rice.

Is there a secret binding ingredient in the mix?

We're sure the rice cake producers would say that the secret ingredient is love, but emotion has nothing to do with it.

On checking with a couple of people the same explanation from all of them about how rice cakes are formed.

Making Rice Cakes

First, uncooked rice is soaked in water and then mixed with a little salt (and in some cases, with a bit of oil). This soaking is important because the moisture from the rice is going to help puff it up when it is heated in the grain-popping machine.

A rice cake is formed when heat and pressure are added to the grain, causing it to expand abruptly. A portion of grain is set onto a round, metal pan like a mini baking pan. As a hot cylinder presses down onto the pan, sizzling pressure is released. The heat is so intense that after only a few seconds, the grain makes a loud popping noise as it bursts. This process causes the grains to “pop” and interweave.

There are no oils, additives or binding ingredients used during this process. If the rice cake is flavoured, the seasonings are applied after the popping process, and doesn't affect the sticking together of the rice itself.

Rice cakes date back to 3000 BC in South-East Asia, and home cooks have never been privy to the specialised equipment that modern commercial rice cake makers enjoy.

Home cooks in Asia make rice cakes by soaking glutinous rice overnight, steaming the rice until it is soft, grinding the heck out of it with a mortar and pestle, and then pounding the mashed rice with a mallet. Then they knead the rice like bread dough and cook it, resulting in a rice cake (or rice ball) with a smoother consistency than that of Western cakes.

Whether using the traditional methods or specialised metal moulds designed only for rice cake production, bakers seem to have no trouble getting rice cakes to hold together – now if only they could manage to produce some taste!

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