Rice, Chief Bread for Chinese

It is never possible to exaggerate the importance of rice in Chinese culture: to the Chinese, rice is a symbol of life itself. There are many sayings that demonstrate the status of rice, especially in the south. People commonly greet each other by asking “Have you had your rice today?” A person who loses his job is said to have had his rice bowl broken.

An ancient Chinese poem (Tang Dynasty , AD 618-907, ) has been written and past down for generations.

Empathy for Farmers (by Li Shen)
Hoeing under the midday sun
Sweat dripping into the tilled soil
Do you know in a plate of rice
Every grain is yielded by such toil.

Source: Tang Poems Revisited;
Translated by Lien Wen Sze and Foo Check Woo,
EPB Publishers Pte Ltd

A typical Chinese meal consists of two general components: fan (lit. rice, including rice and wheat-based products) and ts’ai (lit. vegetables, including vegetable, fish, meat or other ingredients used in Chinese dishes).

In contrast to Western meals where meals and animal protein is considered the main dish, fan is the very starch in Chinese meals. Rice is a critical part of much of Chinese cuisine (though wheat-based product predominate northern China); and according to the native Chinese food tradition, in consuming a meal, appropriate amounts of both fan and ts'ai should be taken, and more importantly, of the two components, fan is more fundamental and indispensable.

Rice is a fixture at every meal in many parts of China. Besides steamed or boiled rice, it is prepared in various ways and is a feature of many main entrees.