— Actually, in Chinese, when referring to ‘having a meal’ (dinner/breakfast/lunch), we always say ‘Chi Fan’, Chi as ‘eat’, and Fan in this context means food, but if by itself, Fan only means ‘rice’.
Normally, a meal is composed by two parts – Fan and Cai. Fan is the stable food, normally only refers to rice, where Cai means the actual dishes. Am I talking sense again? :)
Combining rice with other grains
My friends from South China used to ask me, ‘in the North, you eat lots of flour based food, right?’ … I was always a bit puzzled – well, we have rice with dishes most of the time, then I realized, it is true, particularly compared to South Chinese people, who sometimes only make dumplings once per year, we eat dumplings, steamed bread, bing… almost every week.
But apart from these, we normally have a bowl of rice to accompany the dishes. The varieties of rice are different to those used in Southern cuisine.
In south China, rice is normally stir fried, for example, the most famous one, ‘Yang zhou fried rice’; in contrast, in the North, we usually mix rice with other types of grain. For example, today’s rice is white rice mixed with mung beans (although, in Chinese it is called ‘mung bean rice’).
In northeast China, the popular combinations include red bean with white rice, Chinese millet with white rice, Sorghum grain with white rice, crushed corn with white rice, and so on.
In the past, since China was very poor, and white rice was expensive, combining the different grains with rice was very common. However, nowadays, it is considered as a healthy way of eating, it can help making up what white rice lacks. And for example, today’s recipe includes mung bean, which are very healthy and are even used for medical purposes (they are also good for hot summer days ).
In addition, mung beans certainly enrich the flavor of the rice, and I could get bored of eating white rice only everyday. The proportion of white rice and mung bean (or others) is very flexible, depends on how strong you want the flavor.
It is very easy to make, the only thing needs to pay attention is grains like mung bean and red bean (for example) takes longer to cook than white rice, so you do need to soak them first, then put them together with white rice to boil.
The recipe: mung bean rice
Here you go the simplest way of making mung bean rice.
Making for 3 people for dinner.
1) Soaking around 1 cup of mung bean in water. (I soaked it in warm water for 2 hours, if it is cold water, it takes longer.)
2) Mix 1 and half cup of white rice with soaked mung bean, and fill in with water around 2.5cm above the rice level.
3) Then the rest, boil it as normal rice.
(If you like congee, just add double or even a bit more water. )
You can have it with all kinds of dishes.