Prominent as noodles may be in Chinese cuisine, the most basic staple food is rice. The Chinese word for rice is ' fan' pronounced as 'fun'. Rice is the main food to eat in China, so much so that when Chinese say 'eat rice', they mean to eat a meal.
Rice is generally divided into short-grain, medium-grain and long-grain type. Short-grain rice or round-grain rice is a very glutinous kind of white opaque rice, good for making Chinese desserts, either ground or boiled. Eating rice has more translucent grains. It has two kinds, a medium-grain and a long-grain type. The former, also called oval-grained rice is more sticky and harder to cook, because during cooking a sticky coating has to be washed away before continuing cooking. Steaming is also a good way to cook the medium-grained rice. The latter is easier to cook and is commonly served with Chinese food.
Chinese prefer long-grain white rice and is available in Asian markets and most supermarkets. There is perfumed rice available in the market today such as jasmine and basmati. They have a much more distinct flavor than other varieties. The amount of water and the cooking time for them is lesser than long-grain rice. For convenience, we now have instant rice, which is white rice that is precooked and then dried to shorten its cooking time. Try to avoid this whenever possible because its flavor, texture and nutritional value are compromised.
Rice can be cooked into two forms, boiled/dry rice and thin rice. Dry rice is the usual main food of a meal and is made by boiling or steaming. Thin rice, called 'juk' in Cantonese, or congee is made by boiling very little rice in a great volume of water.
Sometimes meat and or preserved egg is added near the start of making the congee.
Congee is often accompanied by fried bread sticks known as 'you tiao' in Chinese or 'yao char guai' in Cantanose.
It is eaten by Chinese as breakfast or late supper, or at any time just as 'snack' as it's not a very filling food.
Congee, easy to swallow and digest, is considered a part of traditional Chinese medicine food therapy
and often eaten by the frail.
The Chinese do not always cook just enough rice for one meal. There is usually a lot of leftover rice, which can be reheated with a little water added and be as good as newly cooked. Leftover rice will keep for a few days, and it's perfect for making Chinese fried rice (stir fry rice with soy sauce, eggs and other ingredients). Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator only after the rice is perfectly cold.
"Talk doesn't cook rice." (Chinese Proverb)