In China there is a binary label of ANY food: south and north. And there are a lots of fierce debates on subtle nuances of “spreading sugar or salt on your soy pudding”and “meat or nut into the mooncake?”. But there are also fundamental discrepancy in our food philosophy and even our language. For example: Rice or Wheat?
Born in the province cooked the best noodles in China, I will start from wheat. If this name is unfamiliar to you, just think about bread, noodles, and almost all kind of bakeries. All along my childhood my favourite food is all kinds of noodles. Steamed over vegetables (Menmian), mixed with fried soybean sauce (zhajiangmian), or even the instant noodles with a poached egg… just list a few, was my comforting food and I can still recall the great anticipation when I heard my mother would cook noodles for lunch that enabled me to behave myself the whole morning… The high protein content in wheat gives great elasticity to its product. The true hero behind the the A-la-dente taste of spaghetti and the Siu Long Bau with big and juicy fillings, is gluten in wheat flour, which is the major protein in the wheat. However it is also a two edge weapon — many people are allergic to gluten. That’s why there are more and more food marked as “gluten-free” especially in the organic/healthy food store, and many fans of fitness are following a gluten-free diet, although scientifically the gene related to wheat allergy or coeliac disease is much lower in asian people than caucasian, but the concept sells well in Hong Kong — it’s a successful market propaganda that all of a sudden people are paranoid by gluten which they have been taking for centuries and switch to “gluten free” even without any symptoms of gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease.But if you indeed feel fatigue, diarrheas, intestine gas after having wheat product, please have a simple test at the allergic clinic. Than you will need to follow a real gluten-free diet, which not only prohibit noodles, but also something with no visible wheat like soybean sauce (with flour as starter). :,(
Rice is the major food of the southern people. And I picked up a love for rice since I come to Hong Kong for university. Needless to say the Fan (rice), even when you are having noodles and dim sums, many of them are made of rice flour as well. For example my favourite Chanf Fen, He Fen and Nut Mi Ci. The lower protein content in rice let the product taste more tender, much easier to digest. But on the other side of the coin, it contains less energy than wheat product (is it explains why the cultures with rice as major food are usually thiner and shorter? interesting topic haha). The absence of gluten also make rice a best substitution of wheat in gluten free diet. But you may wonder why gluttonous rice is also chewy without protein? Good question my smart reader! It is the amylopectin inside with a more “bulky” molecular structure that increase the connectivity between the molecules, forming a more resilient infrastructure that so the overall taste become sticky. Maybe next time you eat glutinous rice chicken or Nut Mi Ci, just say thank you to the amylopectin molecules holding hand in hand to give you the signature chewy taste 🙂
There is a trend across north and source that people (especially girls) giving up both rice and wheat to lose weight. It is not wise as they are a great source of glucose, which is the only form of energy storage that can be utilised by brain. I used to eat meat and vegetable but skip all major food, and in reflection it was not my smartest time of life. Neither I was slim at that time, as the deprivation of amyloid food made my hungry shortly after taking meal, so snacks which are even higher in energy was eaten instead. What a shame 😀