How Asian Rice Cakes Are Different From American Rice Cakes

Whether or not you've tried American rice cakes, you've probably spotted bags of those puffy rice discs at the grocery store. According to Eater, the notoriously mild snack has somewhat exciting roots. In 1904, Alexander Pierce Anderson showcased a rice cannon at the St. Louis World's Fair. For the performance, he heated a cylindrical container of uncooked rice grains while rotating the assembly. Once the pressure and heat mounted, he used a sledgehammer to knock off the end of the cylinder, making puffed rice shoot out into a display so impressive it caught Quaker's attention. 

Today there's no cannon involved in making rice cakes, but the process still has a real pop. Grains are put onto a baking pan and a hot cylinder presses on them until they burst (via Pepsico). Flavors like Apple Cinnamon, Butter Popcorn, and Chocolate are added afterward. Flavored or not, these crunchy snacks aren't for everyone. If you're not a fan of American rice cakes, you shouldn't close the door on rice cakes just yet. Instead, seek out some Asian rice cakes first.

Asian rice cakes are very different than their American counterparts

You may be able to find Asian rice cakes in your grocery store, but they won't be in the snack aisle next to the American rice cakes. The chewy ingredient that's used in a variety of sauces, stews, and dishes like tteokbokki (a tasty Korean street food) can be found in the Asian section next to fresh noodles and dumpling wraps, according to The Woks of Life. Rather than puffy, crunchy discs, the outlet says you can "think of them as a kind of thick, oval-shaped pasta." These rice cakes are made by steaming, according to Healthy Nibbles and Bits — no rice cannon required.

Another Asian rice cake that might come to mind is the sticky rice cake popular in Chinese New Year celebrations, also known as nian gao (via Healthy World Cuisine). This dessert rice cake is steamed and fried in egg. Other Asian rice cakes include mochi, a sweet, ball-like, Japanese rice cake, or yaki mochi, a savory, grilled Japanese rice cake (via The Spruce Eats). In short, just because you've had one rice cake, doesn't mean you've had them all!