Rice Cakes: The History Of The Popular Snack
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Rice cake is a low-calorie snack that has risen in popularity. Perhaps it's no surprise that its manufacturing is based on the explosive nature of rice (and comparable grains like popcorn) when heated and compressed. Despite their reputation as a "new" and maybe "high-tech" food, rice cakes have a long history and are created using simple, time and capital-intensive procedures. Although producers enjoy the pop, snap, and crackle of rice cakes, they are wary of the breaking that can arise from even the tiniest imbalance in the delicate balance of moisture, materials, time, and temperature that are all necessary for their production. Rice cakes simply have two key ingredients: rice and water. To make the best cake and avoid breaking, the rice must have particular features. White or brown sticky rice works nicely, though long-grain varieties do not spread as much when cooking. Water is crucial early in the preparation process. Other additives such as salt (applied before popping or sprinkled on after) and various flavourings are essential to consumers who are concerned about taste and nutrition, but they have no bearing on the manufacturing process.

The origin

The origins of rice cakes are unknown, although the basic concept has been around for as long as rice has been produced and consumed for its nutritional benefits. Rice cultivation dates back more than 7,000 years. Rice cakes come in various flavours and are prevalent in many nations. They are arguably best known in Japan and the Pacific Rim countries, where rice farming is a major industry and the grain is used in a variety of dishes. For ages, soft rice cakes have been popular in Japan. During the Nara Period (710-794 A.D.), when the Chinese had a significant influence on Japanese culture, the rice cake known as mochi was a delicious treat enjoyed by the nobles. During the Kamakura Shogunate, which ruled from 1192 to 1333, rice cakes became increasingly popular. Among the cakes provided were botamochi, yakimochi, and chimaki. Rice cakes were even more popular as festival delicacies and local specialties during the Edo Period (from 1601 to 1868, when Tokyo became the capital of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate). Roadside sellers sold rice cakes, which is still the case in most of Asia, where street vendors sell rice cakes with a variety of veggies, seaweed, and fish. The cakes are cooked in hot oil in front of the buyer.

Rice cakes today

Today, the Chinese celebrate the New Year with sticky rice balls, rice sweets, and the classic rice cake, which is made of steamed rice blended with milk, sugar, hog fat or lard, and flavoured pastes like date or bean paste. Once made, the cakes can be fried, baked, or boiled. Rice grown in India, China, and Southeast Asia was imported to England and Europe during the British Empire's glory days, and it provided the basis for many popular dishes, including rice pudding. Rice-bearing pancakes known as rice girdle (British English for griddle) cakes were inspired by the rice cake tradition. Puffed rice technology gave birth to the packaged rice cakes that are today's diet and snack favourites.

What’s ahead for rice cakes?

Rice cakes have a bright future because of rising health awareness. The variety of unique flavours caters to a wide range of tastes, and customers can top their rice cakes with fruit, peanut butter, or other toppings to create a more diversified snack.