In the U.S. rice cakes are popped rice which has been formed into rounds and eaten as a snack food. Many Asian countries have their own types of rice cakes. This snack version was popularized in the early 1970s and 1980s during the low-fat, high-carb diet days. Later it became known that the rice cakes have a very high glycemic index and their popularity waned for a few years. Originally the rice cakes produced either white or brown rice and were available salted or salt-free. Now you can find the little cakes made with brown rice and even wild rice and with various flavorings.
You can read about how the American rice cakes are produced here. Chico-San was the first company to produce rice cakes in the U.S. back in 1985. They were an early macrobiotic company (started in 1962) that imported a lot of natural foods from Japan. Based in Chico, California, the company worked with local California farmers to grow organic brown rice for their rice cake products. Chico-San was acquired by Pittsburgh-based Heinz in 1984. Heinz sold the California plant, the Chico-San brand and all the equipment to Quaker Foods in 1993. Quaker was already the largest producer of rice cakes and the acquisition allowed them to expand the market even more. Since that time there are many manufacturers of rice cakes. Two of the largest U.S. suppliers are Quaker and California based Lundberg Farms.
If you don't have rice cakes then you can substitute one of these alternatives:
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