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Food & Drink / What to eat

10 unbelievable sticky rice snacks

By Minjun Xu

August 16

In China, where sticky rice has been grown for more than 2000 years, there are hundreds of ways to make the staple food. Here are just ten dishes we recommend.

In China, where sticky rice has been grown for more than 2000 years, there are hundreds of ways to make the staple food. Here are just ten dishes we recommend.

Glutinous rice, commonly known as sticky rice, neither contains gluten nor — when cooked by Chinese — looks like rice at all. While you can always have a regular old bowl with soy sauce, here are some balls, rolls, and other creative takes on this sometimes plain-Jane grain.

1. Lvdagun (Rolling Donkey) 驴打滚

Lvdagun [Image Credit: Qiong]
Lvdagun [Image Credit: Qiong]
Lvdagun, also called doumiangao (豆面糕), is made by rolling steamed rice with fried bean-flour and stuffing it with red bean paste. The snack gets its name from its supposed resemblance to a donkey rolling on the ground raising dust.

Tasting guide: You can taste Lvdagun at Huguosi (护国寺) Restaurant, a famous Beijing spot for local snacks.

2. Tang Yuan (Sweet rice balls) 汤圆

Tang Yuan [Image Credit:]
Tang Yuan [Image Credit:]
Tang yuan is a traditional Chinese food that symbolizes reunion. Stuffed with peanuts or sesame, these rice balls are typically served in sweet soup and commonly eaten during the Yuan Xiao Festival (元宵节).

Tasting guide: Gangyagou (缸鸭狗), a restaurant in Ningbo, makes authentic Ningbo Tang yuan renowned throughout our galaxy.

3. Jiuniang (Fermented sweet rice) 酒酿

Jiu Niang [Image Credit:]
Jiu Niang [Image Credit:]
Jiuniang, a sweet pudding-like dish, was firstly developed as a by-product of a fermented rice beverage called mijiu, or rice wine (米酒). Containing a bit of alcohol, a bowl of hot Jiuniang with some small Tang yuan can be the best comfort food during freezing winters.

4. Zongzi (Bamboo sticky rice dumpling) 粽子

Zong Zi [Image Credit: Yong]
Zong Zi [Image Credit: Yong]
Zongzi, usually served during the Dragon Boat Festival, are made of rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in large bamboo leaves. In southern China, pork soaked in soy sauce or sweet bean paste are the most common stuffings, while in the north, zongzi are often made with dried dates.

Tasting guide: Jiaxing Zongzi (嘉兴粽子) in Zhejiang are filled with salted egg yolk and minced pork.

5. Nian Gao (Sticky rice cake) 年糕

Nian Gao [Image Credit:]
Nian Gao [Image Credit:]
Nian gao, which sounds like both “higher year” and “year cake” in Chinese, is traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year to symbolizeyearly progress in life. People cook nian gao in different ways region to region, including steamed, fried, or even eaten cold.

6. Qing Tuan (Green dumpling) 青团

Qing Tuan [Image Credit: Jiankang]
Qing Tuan [Image Credit: Jiankang]
Qing tuan dates back to the Zhou Dynasty and is a traditional food in southern China during the Qingming Festival (清明节). Made of rice mixed with wormwood juice, it is usually stuffed with sweet red bean paste or pickled vegetables.  In a recent development, qing tuan stuffed with salted egg yolk has become sought-after across China.

Tasting guide: Sheng Da Cheng (沈大成), a 130-year-old restaurant in Shanghai, is one of the best places to get your qing tuan on.

7. Eight Treasure Rice 八宝饭

Eight Treasure Glutinous Rice [Image Credit:]
Eight Treasure Glutinous Rice [Image Credit:]
Eight treasure rice, or babaofan gets its name from the many ingredients it includes, such as:  lotus seeds, dates, coix seeds, candied melon, candied cherries, longan, and melon seeds. Rich in history and nutrition, this sweet rice pudding has been an important celebrated part of Chinese New Year.

8. Deep-Fried Rice Balls 油炸糯米鸡

Fried Glutinous Rice Ball [Image Credit:]
Fried Glutinous Rice Ball [Image Credit:]
The balls in Wuhan are drastically different from those in Guangdong in both size and flavor. However, rice balls across the board don’t generally have fancy stuffing, just maybe some chopped onions and a bit of minced meat.

Tasting guide: Head to Hubuxiang Lane in Wuhan for some simple yet savory Wuhan balls. They’re great for breakfast.

9. Ci Fantuan (Shanghai style rice roll) 粢饭团

Ci Fantuan [Image Credit:]
Ci Fantuan [Image Credit:]
Ci fantuan is a tightly wrapped sticky rice roll usually stuffed with a piece of youtiao (a fried dough stick), pickled vegetables, pork floss, and some white sugar. As one of the most popular breakfast foods in Shanghai, ci fantuan may be the best choice to kick-start your day.

Tasting guide: With its secret homemade meat sauce and crunchy youtiao stuffing, the ci fantuan stands on the corner of Nanyang Lu (南阳路) and Xikang Lu (西康路) will never disappoint you.

10. Wuhan Doupi (Wuhan style rice pancake) 豆皮

Wuhan Dou Pi [Image Credit: Chengjun]
Wuhan Dou Pi [Image Credit: Chengjun]
Doupi, is Wuhan’s answer to ci fantuan. This breakfast food is made with rice, beef, mushrooms and beans. Once fully cooked, Doupi is cut into small pieces.

Tasting guide: Head to the famous Laotongcheng (老通城) Restaurant at the corner of Dazhi Road in Wuhan. This restaurant boasts Doupi praised by Chairman Mao.

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