"Hometown of Rice Cakes in China" located in this millenary ancient town

Editor︰Annie Chan
Author︰StarFall

Rice cake is a traditional Chinese cuisine, with different regions offering their own unique methods and flavours.

One particular type of rice cake, with a history of hundreds of years, was featured in the documentary "A Bite of China" and has gained international fame. This is the Ningbo Cicheng Rice Cake.

Cicheng is an ancient town with a thousand-year history, and it's acclaimed as the "Hometown of Rice Cakes in China". The local method of making water-milled rice cakes has been included in the intangible cultural heritage list.

So what's the secret behind the delicious Ningbo rice cake? Let's find out.

The representative of Ningbo rice cakes: Cicheng rice cake

Ningbo City in Zhejiang Province is a land of fish and rice, and there are countless delicacies related to "rice". The Rice Cake is one of them.

Known for its jade-white and smooth texture, the Ningbo Rice Cake has a long history, and there are records of rice flour cakes dating back to the Northern Song Dynasty.

By the Qing Dynasty, it's essentially popular among the public. It's explicitly mentioned in the local literature "Taoyuan County Annals".

當代中國-文化傳承-寧波年糕上
With its long history of rice cultivation culture, the Hemudu site in Ningbo is currently one of the earliest rice cultivation sites in Asia. There are many "rice" related delicacies in Ningbo, and Ningbo Rice Cake is one of them. (Image source: VCG)

The most famous Ningbo Rice Cake is probably the Cicheng Rice Cake, which comes from the "Hometown of Rice Cakes in China", Cicheng Town, once featured in the documentary "A Bite of China".

"Ningbo Annals" recorded: "The Ningbo rice cake is smooth and delicate, formerly known for Lianghu rice cakes and Shui Di Qing rice cakes, now Cicheng rice cake is the best".

當代中國-文化傳承-寧波年糕上
Rice Cake Balls are another way of making Ningbo Rice Cakes. Various fillings are encased in the rice balls, both sweet and savory, they are very popular. (Web Image)

The delicious secret of Ningbo Rice Cake: Local Japonica Rice

Cicheng rice cakes are white as jade, soft and smooth, soft and chewy, and very popular. The delicious "secret recipe" lies in the ingredients and craftsmanship.

Xie Daben, the inheritor of the art of making Cicheng water-milled rice cakes, a Zhejiang Province intangible cultural heritage, said that the local late-maturing japonica rice and mountain spring water are indispensable ingredients for making Cicheng rice cakes.

The late-maturing japonica rice has large grains, moderate glutinous texture and stickiness, making it particularly suitable for making rice cakes.

當代中國-文化傳承-寧波年糕上
In order to keep it fresh, the people of Cicheng, Ningbo, will soak the rice cakes in a porcelain jar and take them as they eat. (Web Image)

The traditional production of Cicheng rice cakes involves multiple processes such as selecting rice, soaking, water milling, steaming, pounding, and stamping.

First, select high-quality late stalk rice, soak it for a certain time, grind it with water into a powder, drain the water after steaming over high heat, add water and pound it, and finally make it into long-shaped rice cakes.

Xie Daben, over eighty years old, is the master of Cicheng water-milled rice cakes from the old brand "Fenghengda". He said that rice cakes are one of the must-eat foods in the Jiangnan region during the New Year.

In the past, every New Year, young men in the village would come together to pound rice cakes, and children would gather around to wait, making a lively scene.

當代中國-文化傳承-寧波年糕上
With the change of times, Ningbo Rice Cakes also began to be produced mechanically. Factory workers load the ground rice flour into the steamer for steaming, and then make it into rice cakes afterward. (Image source: VCG)

However, with the changing times, such lively scenes are not common, and the traditional methods of production are also changing. How can the tradition be passed down when the ancient Cicheng Rice Cakes enter modern life? The hundred-year-old brand, "Fenghengda", of Cicheng Rice Cake may have its own answer.

In the next article, let us explore the story of this century-old shop's inheritance and innovation.

Read more: Yangzhou: The low-key refined origin of Huaiyang cuisine

1,400 years of continuous kiln fire: How did Shaanxi remodel "The Pottery Capital"?

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