Tag Archives: rice

Mǐ Huǎ Táng – Puffed Rice Snack – 米花糖

This kind of food can be easily found all around Shanghai, it is sold both in stores and on streets. It originally comes from Sichuan , where it has been enjoyed for couple of centuries. The snack is present in all of China in many forms and variations, which is in a great extent due to the simplicity of its ingredients. The simplest form of 米花糖 (mǐhuǎtáng), where rice is mixed with dissolved sugar. It costs only 10 yuan per pack. The  pack contains around 350g. Price might vary depending on the ingredients.

米花糖 has many variations. The simplest kind is made out of white rice to which sugar dissolved in water is added. The flavor of the snack can be modified depending on what ingredients are used and in which quantities. Some people like to add oil, dried fruits, honey or nuts on top of sugar.

Cooking Method:
Before any other ingredient is added, the rice must be puffed. The two most common ways are deep frying or dry puffing, which is done with a “popcorn machine” (爆米花机 bàomǐhuājī). The rice is fried in a scalding hot oil; it takes from 15 to 25 seconds for rice to puff if the temperature is right. The “popcorn machine” is mostly seen on streets. While using this machine is a healthier way of puffing rice, the temperature and the pressure of the cylindrical metal container must be kept under control. The metal container is constantly rotated, while heated by burning coal. The act of rotating the container helps evenly distribute the temperature inside. Because the container is sealed, the pressure inside rises with the increasing temperature. When the rice is puffed and the container is opened, the pressure creates a small explosion and the rice bursts into a “bag” placed over the container. Puffing rice with the “popcorn machine” takes  between 8 and 10 minutes.
Puffed rice is mixed with sugar that has been dissolved in water, then cut into small brick like pieces. One can add dried fruit pieces or nuts on top of sugar. Cutting the mixture is usually done on a lower temperature, where the sugar creates a stronger bond between rice grains.

米花糖 is believed to come from Sichuan Pujiang. Traditionally  米花糖 that comes from Pujiang is made with lard oil, which gives it a characteristic taste and aroma. 米花糖 was first recorded during the Qing dynasty, around two hundred years ago. Nowadays 米花糖 and its variations can be found even in Hong Kong, where it was brought during the Japanese war.
In the beginning of 2007 a 米花糖 Museum has been opened in Pujiang, Sichuan. It is the first and the only museum that focuses on 米花糖.

Possible Variations:
Yìmǐ 薏米–  puffed barley  (5rmb for around 200g)
Bàomǐhuā 爆米花 – popcorn  (5rmb for around 200g)
Yùmǐtiáo 玉米条 – corn sticks are usually pre-made at home with “rice stick machine” 米棍机 (5 rmb around 200g)

Zong Zi – Glutinous Rice Balls – 粽子

Zongzi (or simply zong) (Chinese: ) is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed, or other large flat leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings or sticky rice dumplings.

Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) are traditionally eaten during the Duanwu Festival (Mandarin: Duānwǔ; Cantonese: Tuen Ng), which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (approximately late-May to mid-June).

The fillings used for zongzi vary from region to region, but the rice used is almost always glutinous rice (also called “sticky rice” or “sweet rice”). Depending on the region, the rice may be lightly precooked by stir-frying or soaked in water before using. In the north, fillings are mostly red bean paste and tapioca or taro. Northern style zongzi tend to be sweet and dessert-like. Southern-style zongzi, however, tend to be more savory. Fillings of Southern-style zongzi include salted duck egg, pork belly, taro, shredded pork or chicken, Chinese sausage, pork fat, and shiitake mushrooms.

Zongzi need to be steamed or boiled for several hours depending on how the rice is made prior to being added, along with the fillings. However, as the modes of zongzi styles have traveled and become mixed, today one can find all kinds of zongzi at traditional markets, and their types are not confined to which side of the Yellow River they originated from.

History of Zongzi

Zongzi are traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival (端午節), on May 5th of the lunar calendar. It is said that on this day, Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet who lived in the Chu kingdom, drowned himself in the Miluo River. Before this, he tried to warn his king and his people that their neighbor, the Qin kingdom, was going to invade the Chu kingdom. When the Chu capital was taken over, Qu Yuan was so upset that he drowned himself. When his body could not be found, people threw packets of rice into the river to prevent the fish from eating it.

Regional origin: The Chu kingdom was in present day Hubei

zongzi map

Possible Variations:

Jianshui Zong (碱水粽) – usually eaten as a dessert; the glutinous rice is treated with lye water to make it more alkaline. The rice turns yellow and sweet. It usually has no filling or is filled with sweet mixtures, such as a red bean paste.

People in the north tend to make sweet zongzi. Their fillings could have dried dates, chicken, or red bean paste. People in the south tend to make savory zongzi with pork, Chinese sausage, and mung beans.

Nyonyazong (娘惹粽) – a part of the cuisine unique to Chinese Malaysians/Singaporeans; similar to southern Chinese zongzi, but the filling is made with minced pork with winter melon, ground roasted peanuts, and a spice mix

Taiwanese Zongzi – 臺灣粽; similar to Chinese zongzi, but wrapped with different leaves; not as fatty; pork, mushroom, salted duck egg, peanuts, chestnuts as fillings (some put dried squid or shrimp as well); some are vegetarian so the filling would have only peanuts.

Related Cuisine

糯米雞 (nuomji) is a Cantonese dim sum dish; steamed sticky rice with chicken in lotus leaf wrap. Fillings include chicken, Chinese sausage, salted egg, dried shrimp, mushrooms, and scallions. It’s usually wrapped in a square instead of a prism.


Pai Gu Nian Gao – Pork chop with Rice Cakes – 排骨年糕

Chop Rice Cake is a special delight, widely consumed in Shanghai, that also happens to be quite economical. It boasts a long history, measured to almost 50 years. This snack is commonly prepared by the method of frying, it usually using such ingredients as a large pork chop and rice cakes. The preparation of this dish calls for the chop to be fried on both sides over medium heat until it reaches a golden brown color, along with a piece of rice cake. This process does not require a lot of time, so that the dish could preserve both: the savory taste of the pork chop and the crispy texture of the rice cake.


People may find this snack in two of the oldest and best known restaurants specialized in preparing Chop Rice Cake – Shuguang Restaurant (previously known as Xiao Chang Zhou) and Xian De Lai Restaurant. The Chop Rice Cakes served in these restaurants are prepared in an absolutely different manner, therefore each of them has its own distinctive aroma, which makes it difficult to choose or favor only one of them.

Photo Credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lordcolus/9059100160