My grandparents often say that if a Chinese person does not have a bowl of rice, they will not be able to fill their stomach. Rice is the most commonly eaten food in China and all around Asia. In Japan and Korea people like to eat rice with all three meals a day.
I am not sure if I am the kind of person who won't feel full if I don't eat a bowl of rice, but I know for sure that I need it. Last year, I went to Vietnam for two weeks. There were so many snacks and dishes to enjoy that I stopped eating rice simply because I wanted to leave room to try more dishes.
After a week without rice, I felt my body was a little weak and I was not as energetic as before. I came to the conclusion that not eating rice was causing the problem so I started eating it and my body felt right again. This experience confirms what my grandparents always said - we Chinese do need rice to fill our stomachs.
I love noodles, spaghetti, bread and hamburgers, but I cannot eat them all the time. My body needs rice so I try to eat it five times a week.
Here is a little story about the importance of rice in the Chinese culture. Rice is not the main food for people in Shanxi province. They eat mo, which is a kind of food similar to bread. When eating mo, people tear it into small bits, like rice, before pouring soup onto it. Some historians think that this custom of making the mo look like rice reflects the peoples' strong desire to eat the grain, which many could not afford during ancient times. This illustrates the prominent position rice holds in the Chinese diet.
After a hard day's work or on a particularly chilly day, is there anything better than the feeling of some warm soup and noodles in your stomach? Noodles are a comfort food that go down easily, unlike that dry rice stuff. After eating a full bowl, my stomach feels like it just got the biggest and warmest hug.
Eating rice every single day is boring. It's plain and tasteless. But there are so many ways to enjoy noodles. You can cook them in broth, stir fry them, deep fry them, have them cold and have them hot. You can even have them on the go in those little plastic bags. And they can be prepared in minutes.
While people argue that rice is the staple in Chinese dining, noodles are certainly not far behind. Think about how many noodle dishes there are. Wonton noodles, chow mein, beef chow fun, Shanghainese stir-fried noodles just to name a few. And noodles aren't just for the Chinese. In Japan, they have udon and ramen noodles, the Vietnamese have pho and Korea has stir-fried japchae (cellophane noodles).
Noodles are versatile. They can be made from a variety of ingredients like wheat, buckwheat, rice and even corn. The production of noodles is an art in itself. Top-class noodles are handcrafted from dough that's been beaten and stretched multiple times before it is sliced to create individual noodles. It's an act of love and dedication to make a perfect, yet simple, bowl of noodles.
And if you want to talk about history, have you heard the legend that pasta - the staple of so many Western dishes - is descended from noodles brought back to Europe by Venetian merchant Marco Polo from his travels in China?
And finally, noodles are just more fun to eat. You can take one strand and slurp it all the way into your mouth. My parents told me it's rude and I shouldn't play with my food, but eating shouldn't be about rules. It should be fun, so slurp away.
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