Rice cakes are snacks made from rice. They are eaten in many different countries and are made differently in each country or region of the world. In North America and other Western countries, they are round, hard, and crunchy snacks made from puffed rice.
As rice cakes made from puffed rice are naturally quite flavorless, varieties with flavoring added are popular in North America. There are a wide range of flavors available, such as cheese and caramel. Rice cakes are considered healthy and are mostly eaten for snacks alone or with a topping such as cheese or peanut butter. They are a popular addition to lunch boxes since they don't get soggy and are not messy to eat, although they do crumble a bit.
In addition to the regular sized rice cake, there are also miniature versions. The idea behind them is to have a healthier, crunchy, bite-sized snack alternative to potato chips. These may be sold in individual serving packages like potato chips.
Idli is an Indian rice cake that is very different from North American version. Idli is a steamed batter cake made of rice and de-husked black lentils. The rice and lentils are prepared into a paste and left to ferment overnight. The fermented batter is poured into molds and then steamed. Idli are often served hot for breakfast or for a snack with a condiment such as chutney.
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made from glutinous rice. Mochi is similar to idli in that it is also mashed into a paste and placed into molds. Mochi are traditionally eaten at Japanese New Year and family celebrations. The snack is said to bring good luck and health. Mochi may be eaten with a soy flour based condiment called kinako or with other toppings such as seaweed.