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Gluttonous rice cakes

By Liu Jue | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2013-12-06 10:04

Glutinous delicacy is popular southern snack

Think back. Many of our warmest childhood memories revolve around food, an experience that transcends culture. Proust's episode of the madeleine perhaps attests to the powerful pull food has upon our involuntary memory; be it hot dogs or dumplings, certain tastes and smells are always ready to trigger nostalgic moods, providing us with a sense of safety and security in the turbulent world we now live in.

"Being abroad, I still miss my hometown snack mibaba. An old lady used to sell this particular kind of rice cake in pairs around the street corner when I was little, only for 0.5 yuan (8 cents) a pair," a Wuhan native recalls with affection. "In its sweetness, you can also find a hint of sour. I drool just thinking about it."

She and many others search longingly to recreate this delicate dish in their own home.

Usually made of rice and glutinous rice wine, this sweet southern snack appeared on breakfast tables around the province. This mibaba is definitely a down to earth folk snack, far from the pretensions of cooking programs; even the rice used is meant to be the crushed leftovers in a rice bag. Yet, as it migrated from street peddler stalls to restaurant menus, it lost its importance as a home breakfast staple.

The main ingredient is the most common food found in the southern China: rice. Since the plain along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River is "a land of fish and rice", it is only natural for rice to have a huge presence in the local diet. With this ordinary ingredient, the locals manage to incorporate it in a wide range of dishes. Rice can be ground into rice flour and made into rice noodles or a thin piece of pancake, and it can even be fried or baked to make crunchy 锅巴 (guōbā) - a favorite with kids. In a similar way, the rice in mibaba is first soaked and softened and then ground with water into a white, smooth rice milk (mǐjiāng).

Glutinous rice is even more versatile; think of sweet dumplings or New Year rice cakes. In the case of mibaba, the glutinous rice wine is just what we need. Called by names such as (láozāo), (jiǔniàng) or (tiánjiǔ), glutinous rice wine combines steamed glutinous rice with distiller's yeast to form the basis of many Chinese desserts. Glutinous rice is believed to be mild nourishment beneficial to the spleen and stomach in traditional Chinese medicine and is recommended for a number of ailments. The medical effect of a brew of the glutinous rice wine is even stronger. It is said that the alcohol helps nourish the liver, lungs, kidneys, circulation and even the skin.

Making mibaba from scratch is relatively easy but a little time-consuming. In the old days, families had no problems waiting for the rice to soften and paste to ferment. In this sense, today's foodies may just have to live with delayed gratification. Just remember: the longer you wait, the sweeter it will be. Good things come to those who wait.

Recipe | Rice Cake


500g rice  dàmǐ

Enough water to soak the rice and make a smooth mixture 水 shuǐ

200g glutinous rice wine  láozāo

2 tablespoons of sugar  báitǎng

1/3 teaspoon of baking powder  pàodǎ fěng

2 tablespoons of cooking oil  shíyòng yóu

50g raisins  pútáogān


1. Soak the rice overnight. The water should be about 1 centimeter above the rice.

2. Pour rice and water into a blender to fine blend. Add in glutinous rice wine. Blend until it turns into a fine and white mixture.

3. Let the mixture ferment at room temperature for six to seven hours. A sour smell and small air holes on its surface will suggest a successful fermentation. Add in sugar, baking powder and some water, stir until even. The final mixture should not be too thin or thick.

4. Brush oil evenly in a pan, and heat it to about 150 C. Pour scoops of mixture on the hot pan into round shaped cakes. Place raisins in the center of the cakes.

5. Turn the cake over when the top side dries and keep fry for about two minutes after it turns gold. Serve hot.

Courtesy of The World of Chinese,

The World of Chinese

Gluttonous rice cakes


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