Rice in Chinese Cuisine and Chinese Culture: An Introduction

Rice has been the main stable food in Chinese diet for over 5,000 years. Not surprisingly, rice production in China is massive, given the huge population of the country.

What many people may not know is that white rice used to be considered as a 'luxury' product in China since, in poorer times, most Chinese people struggled to have it. Thirty years ago, one of the future plans of the Chinese government was to ensure that everyone in China would be able to afford white rice on a daily basis.

These goals have been fulfilled in present days. Furthermore, surprisingly, Chinese people are nowadays trying to increase the amount 'Culiang' (that is, millet, mung beans, corn, and so on) in their diet, because these are considered healthier than white rice. In fact, there are many popular restaurants in China called 'Recall the past', which specialize in the kinds of food that people used to have in old days, when the country was poor.

Different parts of China grow different types of rice. The North East provinces are considered to have the best soil to grow rice, thus Northeast rice is one of the best in China.

In the past, rice was distributed regionally, rather than nationally. During those times, my parents used to give away packs of Northeast rice as gift to their friends living in other regions. The grain of Northeast rice is short, but fuller, very good for boiling, and after boiling, the rice tends to be sticky, has great fragrance. It is actually very similar to Japanese rice.

I like Sichuan rice as well. It can be white or black / purple. Its grain is long and slender, has strong fragrance, and it is dry, non-sticky, very easy to 'separate' after cooking, a little bit like basmati rice. The mix of a handful dark purple rice with Northeast (white) rice is also very popular in China.

The traditional way of cooking rice is to boil it. However, egg fried rice is also very common. The most famous stir fried rice in China is probably Yangzhou fried rice from mid south of China. In North, other than boiled white rice, it is also popular to mix it with other different grains, for example, mix with millet, or mung beans, and so on.

Traditionally, rice has always been served in a rice bowl on the table, never placed on a flat plate, or mixed with dishes together. When Chinese people have guests, the rice in the bowl needs to be presented nicely. For example, it is a common practice to use a smaller bowl to put the rice in first, then transfer to another normal rice bowl. I still keep this habit to serve our guests at home.

Source by Shibin Zhang

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