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Traditional treat

By Wu Yiyao  (China Daily)

15:05, February 13, 2013

More than 1,000 local residents at Cicheng in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, make rice cakes in late January in a mass celebration of the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 10. (Photo / China Daily)

With a history of 2,000 years, rice cakes bring both palatable and visual pleasures, Wu Yiyao reports.

Surely few staple foods are as versatile as nian'gao, or rice cake, a must-have during Spring Festival in East China.

From appetizer to soup, from main dish to dessert, sticky and chewy white rice cake offers delectable celebratory diversity thanks to its amenability to any shape of mold.

However, Zhang Jianchang, head of Ningbo Grand Bridge Ecological Farm in Zhejiang province, one of the largest farms with a rice cake mill, says each step of making rice cake brings about multi-facet beauty of the delicacy.

"A well-preserved rice cake may last hundreds of days; the best time to taste it, however, is always straight from the steamer, before it is shaped," said Zhang.

Ningbo, a coastal city, is considered the birthplace and one of the best places for rice cake. Archaeologists have found the cultivation of round-grained rice, the key ingredient for rice cake, has a history of more than 5,000 years in Ningbo, and historical accounts trace rice cake in the area back 2,000 years.

Ningbo rice cake comes in a mind-boggling variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

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