Rice, Chinese Style

Christopher Hirsheimer

Rice in the Chinese diet is often equated with bread at the Western table, but it might be more accurate to call rice the meat and potatoes of China. It's so important that in Cantonese, there's a whole rice vocabulary (for instance, husked but uncooked rice is mai; cooked rice is called faan). Long-grain white rice is the most popular variety; short-grain is used in porridges and glutinous or sticky rice in desserts and stuffings. Steamed rice is the staple at most meals, and is almost always served with a small portion of vegetables, fowl, fish, or meat.

To eat rice, both etiquette and practicality dictate that you use chopsticks to pick up a morsel of meat, fish, or whatever from the serving bowl; position it over the rice bowl, allowing its juices or sauce to drip into the rice; eat the morsel; then shovel some rice into your mouth with the chopsticks.