Chongming on a plate of rice cakes
Updated: 2017-01-11

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Chongming rice cake is a traditional snack from Chongming district, Shanghai, traditionally eaten during the Chinese Spring Festival. [Photo from WeChat account shanghaitourism]

As the countdown continues to the most important Chinese festival, the Spring Festival, which begins on Jan 28 this year, people all over Chongming district in Shanghai are busy taking part in a favorite Chinese New Year tradition—making the area's signature rice cakes!

Although rice cake is a common snack in China, Chongming's huge, heavy and nutritious take on the delicacy is particularly famous.

Unlike other more dainty rice cakes, Chongming's version is thick and over half a meter in diameter, often weighing in at a monstrous 10 kilograms after steaming. If decorated with dates, walnut, and preserved fruit, the cake will reach some 18 kg!

This unique local snack can be dated back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). According to local folklore, a couple from Chongming once went out fishing but was trapped on a deserted island after a heavy storm. With the help of the rice cakes they had brought with them, the couple managed to survive and eventually was able to get home safely.

Since then, making and eating rice cakes during the Spring Festival has become a local tradition to ward off bad luck and attract good fortune—and the larger, the better!

There are two kinds of Chongming rice cake: Hard cakes and muffins. By paying special attention to the mixing of the ingredients and the steaming method, the cake acquires a waxy and sticky taste with a soft fragrance and moderate sweetness.

The cakes are best eaten fresh from the steamer. You can also try some when the cake has cooled down but has not yet hardened. Local people also enjoy the sundried version which can be preserved for over a month.
 

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Chongming rice cake is cooked with special attention to the mixing of the ingredients and the steaming method, which brings out a waxy and sticky taste with a soft fragrance and moderate sweetness. [Photo from WeChat account shanghaitourism]

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