Rice is probably the type of food most associated with China and East Asia, even more than noodles. It has been a staple food in the region since the beginning of civilization and the dawn of agriculture. China is the largest producer and consumer of rice in the world. In 2007 the country annual crop was estimated at almost 200 million metric tons which is about a quarter of the global production. In 2003-2004 consumption was estimated at 135 million. Most of the rice in China is grown in the south of the country.
In China, rice usually finds its way to the dining table in one of the following forms.
This is the most common and simple way of serving and there for it is also the cheapest. It’s just plainly cooked white rice in a bowl. In most restaurants one regular bowl of rice goes for 1 yuan but some places offer several sizes of bowls (single, double and family portions) so prices may vary. Plain white rice is considered to be more of a filler rather than the substantial part of the meal. Therefore it is usually served at the end of the meal after all the other dishes were served. The reason is that whoever dines should first enjoy and savor the other courses of the meal, and only if they didn’t get full should they have plain rice.
We recommend you to have the rice served along with the rest of the dishes you order. If a dish is too hot temperature-wise the rice can serve as great cooling platform all while absorbing some of the flavor, and if the dish is found to be too hot spiciness-wise it’s always good to have a bowl of plain rice on standby.
A dish of fried rice is a meal by itself. It’s probably the most economic way to enjoy a delicious and quite nutritional meal, especially if you travel and dine alone. It’s essentially the plain rice from the paragraph above, only it’s a day older (it’s too moist to be fried the same day) and it’s stir-fried in a wok with a variety of vegetables, eggs and maybe also meat. The exact content of what you throw into the mix changes according to the region.
Porridge is basically rice cooked slowly in much more water than the amount you use when you make rice the traditional way. Other ingredients may be vegetables, eggs and bits of seasoning. The long cooking process partly disintegrates the rice which becomes very soft. It’s one soggy mix which you eat with a spoon. In China porridge is regarded as a food with many “health benefits” and traditional Chinese medicine often adds it to the diet of patients.
GaiFan means covering rice so a dish-GaiFan is a dish on a bed of rice (plain white rice). GaiFan is a great choice in case you are one or two people who want to have a quick and cheap meal without much hassle and don’t feel like fried rice or noodles. It’s quick to come out of the kitchen and you eat it with a spoon so it’s really an in & out kind of meal.