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Why Rice Is a Staple in Chinese Cooking

In addition to cooking, products of the rice plant are used for various other purposes in the Chinese culture. The plant is used for industrial starch, artwork, thatching, and fuel. Outside of China, the growing, selling, and eating of rice is part of the lifestyle of many cultures. In China itself, rice has been cultivated and grown for four millennia. Foods made from rice are also the basis for certain festivals, such as the Spring Festival and the Land Opening Festival, which marks the beginning of the rice growing season.

Where Rice Is Grown

For the Chinese, rice is not only culturally important, it is also used for security and economic stability. Therefore, rice is well-revered in China, especially in the southern part of the country where it is abundantly grown and thrives. In northern China, rice is not planted, as the climate is mild and therefore not advantageous for cultivation.

China’s Lunar New Year

On the other hand, southern China features a large number of plantations. Fields are flooded in order to produce the rice crop. The water level must be maintained and remain consistent in subtropical temperatures for rice to grow. Because rice is a central theme in China’s Spring Festival, or lunar New Year dinner, it is served as a type of cake during this event.

Cake Made from Rice Flour

During this time of year, families prepare a New Year’s cake. The flour that is used is turned from glutinous rice, and is called “gao.” People eat the cake, hoping for a higher status and better harvest in the New Year. Cakes made of rice flour symbolise people’s wishes for a prosperous future.

Rice Dumplings

In addition, rice dumplings are prepared on the fifteenth night, or the first day of the full moon. The dumplings are known as Yuanxiaoin northern China and Tangyuan in southern China, “yuan” meaning “satisfaction” in the Chinese language. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that rice is commonly used in Chinese takeaway in Bristol. After all, Chinese food would simply not be Chinese food without the addition of rice.

Some Examples of the Use of Rice for Festivals

For example, Zongzi, which is consumed during the Dragon Boat Festival, held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, is made of a glutinous rice. The grain is also included in “Double Nine” festival cakes on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month annually. These cakes are made with fresh rice, just harvested from autumn crops.

Festival Porridge

Rice is also added to porridge on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. The stew is comprised of rice, beans, cereals, nuts, and dried fruit. Practices on this festival day include bathing Buddha statues and eating the rice porridge.

A Festive Food

Needless to say, rice is an important food to the Chinese as it not only grows well in certain regions, but is also culturally significant. Rice is a festive food, one that can be as easily included in Chinese rituals as it can be in the delicious cuisine that represents takeaway, Chinese-style.