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must there be sauce with rice?

Okay, I come from an Asian background, and having rice to me means having it plain, but that it is accompanying other types of foods (which may or may not have sauces of its own, which could be poured over the plain rice). I have been having it plain since .. since forever. And now, my boyfriend (who's definitely not of Asian background) is insisting that everytime we have rice he must dab it in either butter, or soy sauce (and icky soy too), or something..

How can I get him to understand that rice is to had plain? At least at my table.. he can have his own version of rice on his own!

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  1. It's definitely a regional/ethnic thing. I'm from Louisiana and I grew up eating an awful lot of rice. But, rice was treated pretty much like mashed potato or as an addition to a dish.

    For example, smothered pork chops with rice and gravy -- actually, anything that had gravy was served with rice. Or, the addition of rice to gumbo. A scoop of rice placed on top of the gumbo is the best!

    I ate buttered rice as a side dish often too. We really did treat it just like a potato. Rice was the starch at our table much more often than potatoes.

    When I eat Asian food, I don't put soy or anything else on the rice unless some of the sauce from another dish gets on it.

    Pasta is treated differently in different cultures, so are potatoes and many other items.

    I know that rice and sauce is a particularly touchy subject around here, especially with folks with Asian backgrounds. You'll see a wide variety of responses here.

    Have a great day!

    1 Reply
    1. re: geg5150

      My cajun palate long regarded plain rice as suspicious and/or boring, but then I started eating jasmine rice and good sticky short grain rice. So now I've learned to eat it plain, but I still prefer it with something "on top". Give the guy a break...to each his own. Just don't look when he douses the rice.

    2. You might try serving him less, but I would not get any more vested in his eating plain rice than he should get from getting you to not eat your rice plain. In other words, once you've provided the background to your preference, you should back off control issues here, since they usually backfire in something as atavistic as food. The role of rice in American cuisine is very different from Asian cuisines, and forced cultural re-education would prompt many Americans innately to resist (that's our cultural history erupting there).

      You might find this long recent thread of interest:


      1. I realize this is sacrilege to some people, but I really like a dash of soy sauce on my rice. I like plain rice too, but sometimes i just crave that saltiness.

        Since having once rebuked a boyfriend for ordering Budweiser when we were out at a fancy restaurant with a wide variety of microbrews to choose from (and really not liking the way it made me sound like a total snob), I've realized that food is too personal an issue to tell people what they should do with it and how they should enjoy it. It's like telling them what their political or religious beliefs should be.

        I knew students from foreign countries used to spicier local cuisines in high school and college who carried around their own tabasco sauce bottles. Nobody took offense, even when they dumped it on the mashed potatoes.

        1. How about a midway option? Half my family came from Japan, so I get the plain rice thing, but have either of you tried furikake? A dry, mainly seaweed seasoning that is sprinkled on the hot rice.

          1. Have him watch "The Joy Luck Club," esp the scene where the white boy friend asked for soy sauce at a family dinner.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PeterL

              Being a white boy who married into a Chinese family, I have committed similar faux pas in the past. My wife is appalled when I and our older daughter put extra sweet and sour sauce on the fried rice we get in the local ChiCanAm combo dinner. I know it's wrong in so many ways, but we like it!

            2. Well, you can serve him plain rice, but he probably won't enjoy eating it very much.
              As a kid, I grew up being force fed rice. I just didn't like the taste of it plain, but I liked how it tasted with some butter mixed in. No one on the Chinese side of my family could under stand it, but they didn't push it. Eventually I would just mix rice with my food, and now I will eat rice on its own, but I prefer how it tastes mixed with other things. I know there are a lot of ways things are 'supposed' to be served, but if it doesn't make it palatable, what's the point?
              Let him eat it how he likes - hey, you don't have to eat it, right?

              You'd probably be ashamed of me - I'm an half Asian who doesn't much care for plain rice!

              1. I'll give you the best advice I have ever received on this subject, or on just about any other subject for that matter. When I was first dating my husband-to-be many moons ago and appraising all those little things one checks out when deciding whether it's "serious" or not...well, he seemed pretty perfect.

                Then came our first meal at a Chinese restaurant...where he proceeded to place some of each dish from the table onto his plate. OK, so far so good...AND MIXED THEM ALL TOGETHER! I was flabbergasted! But wisely kept my mouth shut about it. Otherwise, as usual, we had a lovely evening. But of course, the very first chance I got, I grabbed my best friend for some serious girl talk. "I mean, he's a really great guy, and cute, and stable for once - but can you believe it...he mixes all his Chinese food together into a big pile on his plate!"

                Her answer to my "problem" applies to so many of those subjective puzzlers that come up all too frequently in interpersonal relationships, and has stood the test of 24 years of happily married life. She said, "Niki, YOU don't have to eat it."

                1. How much salt do you put in your rice when cooking it? An earlier Joy of Cooking edition specifies 3/4 tsp per cup of raw rice (a newer edition specifies 1/4 - 1/2). Without some sort of sauce, your rice may taste undersalted.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: paulj

                    Normally, white rice in Chinese cooking is not salted. Another basic difference in custom and usage.

                  2. If your worst problem with him is that he puts things on his rice, you have a long, happy and very boring relationship ahead of you. (A fight now and then livens things up!)

                    Now, I have to say this: lighten up. It's just rice. Let him eat it however he likes, and you can eat yours the way you like. Nobody's "right", and if you start delineating "in my house white rice is eaten plain" you're going to come off as completely anal-retentive (notice the hyphen) and controlling.

                    1. stop serving filler and the problem will be gooooooone!

                      1. Thank you guys for your replies.. and yes, I have checked out the earlier thread too, but just wanted to know what others who were in my situation thought.

                        I know its a touchy subject, the inter-racial mingling kinda thing. He doesnt like Uncle Ben rice, by the way, I'm not even too sure how he ate his rice while growing up. But it's an issue for me because, well, as other Asians know, food is an important part of our culture, and if and when we eat with elders, we must have proper etiquette, and so I thought, I better make sure he knows how to eat his rice properly before meeting family members. Yes, the Joy Luck Club will be watched, I'm sure... thanks Peter!!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jennjen18

                          I can't stand Uncle Ben's rice...converted and/or par-boiled rice sucks. Now THAT is an issue I would fight about! Ha.

                          1. re: jennjen18

                            Jenjen, I think you just supplied your own solution. Let him eat it any way he wants it when it's just the two of you, but educate him about the importance of etiquette when in more formal situations. You might tell him it would be insulting to the person who prepared the rice for him to put anything on it.

                          2. When I first read the heading to the OP, my knee-jerk response was, "yes!" I'm Asian-American and I guess I prefer my rice "plain" but the accompanying dishes serve as the "sauce/gravy." My constant refrain to my mother when I was growing up was, "make it with a lot of gravy!"

                            I am married to a man who is not Asian-American (or any kind of Asian for that matter.) Last night he made meatloaf and rice. There's not enough sauce in meatloaf to make it compatible with plain rice. It struck me as an odd combination. But then he made gravy and all was right with the world.

                            That "inter-racial mingling kinda thing" all works so much more easily when there's gravy -- even if it's on the side!

                            1. I don't particularly like rice-it's bland and dry--so I understand adding butter and sauce

                              1. I don't know how you are going to solve your dilema, but it makes me think of my friend. My friend (who likes her rice plain) is married to a man who needs soy on his rice. She turns a blind eye to the soy while her husband looks the other way when she eats that cheese in a jar stuff that you eat with tortilla chips. LOL

                                1. One thing that may help - if it's not against your grain - is to try small additions to rice that punch up the flavor - I love sweet black sushi rice just sprinkled in (cooked in) as an addition to white rice, for instance.

                                  Of course I realize you may just wish to keep the rice plain rice.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Cinnamon

                                    Well, to avoid the soy sauce and butter problem, I've actually tried cooking the rice with chicken stock instead of plain water. Haha, it *looks* normal to me, but is flavoured.. and thats what I emphasized to him when he reached for the soy sauce. And he liked it. But still had to pour ladle-fulls of sauce from the stir-fry veggies that I made (extra sauce, of course). It's psychological too, isn't it?

                                    So I guess its too late to tell him that jasmine sticky rice is to be eaten plain, huh?

                                    1. re: jennjen18

                                      jennjen, throughout my parents' 50-plus year interracial marriage (she's from Okinawa, he's from the Ozarks), my Dad has always poured soy sauce on his rice (and a great many other things, too). Mom doesn't exactly dig it, and can't figure out his compulsion to do this, nor can I, but it is his plate, and for some ungodly reason, to him, it isn't complete without it.

                                      I think someone above had the right idea that your BF can do what he wants in his own house, but when with your relatives, out of respect, he should follow accepted etiquette so as not to offend.

                                  2. Besides sauces and gravies, aren't all kinds of dry flavorings that eaten with rice?

                                    Japanese add a vinegar, salt, and sugar mixture to cooling rice to make sushi rice. Onigiri (rice balls) are formed with salted hands, and filled with savory bits. Dozens of different spice mixes are available in stores for sprinkling on rice - with seaweed, sesame seeds, and bonito flakes the most common components. There's even a red pepper mix.

                                    And how about the side dishes served with Korean meals? Salads, kimchi, dried anchovies? Aren't they eaten with plain rice?


                                    1. Long story short: You can require him to eat it plain. You can't require him to be happy about it.

                                      1. isn't the point of being a chowhound that we enjoy food and are constantly looking for a better taste? taste is such a subjective thing. Personally i believe that nobody should ever have to eat anything they don't like the taste of. Its a waste of good food if you can't enjoy it. If your boyfriend likes it with sauce, then why should you force him to eat it plain?
                                        a lot of you are starting to sound high and mighty.. "apalled" "sickened" give me a break, get over yourselves.
                                        Who are you to say how rice should be eaten?
                                        asians do not have the monopoly on rice. In India it is served with many dishes and meant to be mixed in before eating.
                                        So, asians eat it plain, south indians eat it in sauces.. whats the big deal here?

                                        1. Being essentially a Midwestern boy, I view all of those starchy white substances as existing for the sake of whatever we can ladle onto them. Mashed potatoes are a delivery system for gravy, spaghetti for sauce, rice for...whatever. I do not douse my rice with soy sauce - soy sauce, unlike gravy, is a condiment, not a food. Gravy is a food...and Kung pao chicken is a food, garlic shrimp is a food, broccoli beef is a food. These are things that I eat in tandem with rice in a Chinese restaurant.

                                          In the privacy of my own home I will dump my turkey mole or my chicken paprika on top of my rice, but in a restaurant I have learned to sidle them up next to each other and discreetly allow them simply to fall onto my fork at the same time...as I have learned to gather up a bit of whatever-and-rice with my chopsticks without attracting the ire of Mrs. O...

                                          1. I'm a big fan of side starches and they generally exist as a delivery system for sauce as Will suggests.

                                            But then I learned how to make good mashed taters and no longer needed gravy every time. I even found others were not using as much gravy even if it was availible.

                                            With rice, it was a different story, I never liked it plain at all unless it sat next to a very saucy main dish. I would usually add hot sauce or something like that.

                                            Then an Iranian friend suggested Basmati rice a few years back. I think it has a wonderful texture and some real flavor on it's own. We use a rice cooker with just a smidge of salt and olive oil. Give that a shot - serve it with something mild like shrimp or chicken so it will stand out more.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Ace_Mclean

                                              Basmati rice -- long grain, separate when properly cooked, full of perfume -- is not really what ordinary rice in Chinese cooking is about. So that too may present some cultural conflict. I would imagine the relations would not use it to prepare rice dishes they serve the boyfriend, as it were.

                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                Good point. Perhaps at the very least, it will be a compromise with her BF at home. I suppose he'll then have to suck it up with the potential in-laws. Even as an American marrying an American, I recall eating a few things I didn't like the first go 'rounds at her house!!!

                                            2. So all those 'lunch special' dishes at my local chinese places that serve __________ on rice are anglicised?

                                              and not apropos for asian etiquette (which asian do you mean? chinese?)?