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Bad Rice: Send it back?

this thread is based on one about rice cookers.

If I were in an italian restaurant and I got a bad batch of pasta, say overcooked. Not just past al-dente but truly mush I would not hesitate for a minute to send it back. If I am in an asian restaurant and I get bad rice, like it has been in the rice cooker for way too long staying warm - you know, crusty and dry on top, soft and mushy at the bottom - should I also send it back? Not to be racist, but do they just assume as a white person I won't know the difference? I know it is going to take at least 20 minutes for a new batch, probably a little more.

thanks for your input. oh, yeah, lets assume this is more or less a mom and pop ethnic eatery in a smaller town some distance from any asian population centers. someplace without many options.

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  1. Send it back.

    It won't take another 20 minutes. They'll just scoop out another serving from the rice cooker for you.

    1. I have to ammend my comments in the other thread. There is ONE place here in Plano where I have yet to have bad rice. You may be familiar with the chain, KM. It's L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. Two scoops of rice, one scoop of macaroni salad, lau lau and Hawaiian BBQ chicken.

      Ipsy, that's exactly the problem with sending the rice back. They just send you more of the same! <sigh> Fortunately, I RARELY (never?) go to a restaurant for their rice.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Caroline1

        ipsed, i think Caroline is right. the problem is the rice in the cooker should probably be tossed, it may have been there for several hours getting crusty on top and mushy on the bottom, especially if they aren't being careful about keeping the lid on the rice cooker closed, or even worse, moving the rice from the cooker to a warming tray once it is cooked (which now that I'm thinking about it sounds even more likely.)

        L&L is popular here Caroline, not my favorite because, at least at the branches i've been to, they put an enormous amount of mayonnaise in the mac salad, and a whole lot of msg in the food. I don't get headaches or anything, but the taste is too strong for me. But yes, they do just fine on the rice. I would be gobsmacked to find that it wasn't done in a rice cooker. But then Plano Texas isn't where I would be most likely to go looking for an L&L drive-in either.


        1. re: KaimukiMan

          Well, as folks in these here parts say, when you got a hankerin' for lau lau, it's the ONLY show in town! '-)

      2. If it's really mushy because they added too much water to it, they may not be able to help you, but you might as well ask if it's possible they'll have something else soon. Most places that cook in a gas powered rice cooker move it to a warmer after it's done, but usually the top of the rice that comes out of the pot is harder than the rice at the bottom. If it's not all mixed up they can try and get you something drier.

        Nothing irritates me more than getting mushy rice in an Asian restaurant, but I almost never send it back because as you say, usually it's all the same and it's another 30minutes until the next batch is done if it's not already cooking. If they're really busy I'll try and ask for something else because they're making new batches of rice all the time, but if it's slow I take my medicine. I do not want to imply that Thai people can't cook rice, but getting really mushy rice seems to happen to me in Thai restaurants all the time. I stick my spoon in it, I see the middle looks like a panna cotta, and my heart sinks. Meal ruined.

        One thing that should be mentioned is that in Japan the "okoge," or brown crust at the bottom is something that people fight over. In the US a lot of customers will send back rice with the okoge in it because they want all the rice perfectly white, which is kind of odd to Japanese chefs. There is a famous restaurant in Kyoto that actually serves just a thin piece of okoge in a dish by itself - it's one of the hardest reservations to get in Kyoto.

        3 Replies
        1. re: la2tokyo

          i LOVE the brown crust - but always thought i was weird for liking it!

          1. re: la2tokyo

            In Coastal Ecuador, they save the crust at the bottom and fight over it at breakfast.

            1. re: tracylee

              Do they use rice cookers there? I recall rice cooked pilaf style - long grain, lightly fried with onions and pepper, and cooked without stirring, aiming for light, well separated grains.

          2. Why would it make a difference whether it's an Italian or an Asian restaurant. If the food is not up to standard, send it back.

            8 Replies
            1. re: PeterL

              In most Italian restaurants, pasta may be cooked ahead in large batches just to an al dente stage, then stored in cold water and reheated by plunging it into hot water before plating. In most Chinese/Asian restaurants today, the rice is cooked in a large "bucket sized" rice cooker, and if part of it is overdone, chances are it will all be overdone. At least in an Italian restaurant you stand a chance of someone paying more attention to how long the pasta is reheated.

              1. re: PeterL

                I think part of it is that Chinese and Americans have different notions of what "properly cooked rice" should be.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Like Uncle Ben's Converted.........what the heck is that?

                    1. re: monku

                      It's a form of rice that has undergone a religious conversion.

                      Though back in the 1970s we called it Uncle Bum's Perverted Rice.

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        Uncle Bum's Perverted Rice
                        That's close to what I called it.
                        Supposed to be better for you with more vitamins retained.

                      2. re: monku

                        It's parboiled. Parboiling rice and then drying it for longer preservation is a practice going back many centuries - it's actually quite traditional.

                        Julia Child, noting the trademark for "converted", referred to it as avuncular rice.

                    2. Haole or not, in a mom and pop joint they aren't going to make anyone a new batch of rice.

                      Actually my favorite is the crusty rice (slightly browned even better) you get at the bottom of the pot from rice cooked on a stove.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: monku

                        yep, koge rice is great, and you won't get that in a rice cooker. but thats not the same as the dry crusty rice that forms at the top of a pile of rice that has been sitting on a warming tray in a buffet line for too long.

                        as far as making a new batch, are they pawning the old stuff off on the haoles while keeping another batch hidden in the back for 'more discerning' customers?

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          are they pawning the old stuff off on the haoles while keeping another batch hidden in the back for 'more discerning' customers?

                          You'd like to think that. But, no.

                          I remember the day's when restaurant rice was free (that wasn't too long ago). Still some places I can get it, but they're becoming relics.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            Besides, getting a new batch is going to take 20+ minutes...what about your other food?

                            Those 50 cup commercial rice cookers take 30-60 minutes depending on the type of rice.

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              haoles - is that some Hawaiian slang?

                              I wonder if this thread belongs in the Hawaii section, as opposed to general?

                              1. re: paulj

                                I think you can understand "haole" from the context here.

                                Just means "white person". Yes, it is part of the normal Hawaiian vocabulary.

                          2. You could always ask - just show them the parts of the rice that is dried out and tell them how you prefer your rice and see if they have any like that. They might say no or they might try to get you a better scoop from whatever they have or maybe they gave you the last of the old batch and are cooking the new batch.

                            My guess is that they just don't care that much or they have a crappy rice cooker, or they buy crappy rice. I don't think there will be any difference in the rice they serve you vs. the rice they'd serve an Asian customer.

                            I've noticed a wide variety of rice preference both in Hawaii and on the mainland. My zorirushi rice cooker has a bunch of settings including normal, harder and softer for regular white rice. There's a way I prefer my rice, but I'll also eat reheated leftover rice or overcooked rice if that's what's available.

                            I was really surprised when I came to Seattle for college and they told me they serve "sticky rice" in the dining halls - I had always called glutinous rice "sticky rice" and was surprised to find normal medium grain white rice that had been (to my taste) horribly overcooked with too much water being proudly billed as "sticky rice." A lot of people here think that's how Asian rice is supposed to be. Yikes.

                            I have sent rice back only once and it was at Galatoire's in NOLA. The rice was so undercooked there were crunchy bits. Inedible. I think it was the cook's night off.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: akq

                              I grew up on the mainland eating long grain white rice as part of our normal diet. Sometimes for breakfast, more often with dinner. It was served light and fluffy with each grain being separate and not sticking together. Mom was always proud of the fact that her rice didn't stick together. At that time, most of the rice served in at least Chinese restaurants in the San Francisco area also served long grain (fluffy) white rice.

                              When we moved to Hawaii, the commonly served rice was medium grain white rice (calrose.) Which at the time people called sticky rice. Not as sticky as the types of sticky rice served in say a Thai restaurant (glutenous rice), but certainly more sticky than long grain. The first time we had people over and mom served rice, they thought she had used Uncle Ben's converted rice. She wasn't amused. It wasn't till several months later that I learned that the rice used locally was actually a different kind of rice, not just rice cooked with too much water.

                              Ah, once again the knowledge of Sam Fujisaka is missed.

                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                Amen to that! One of the inteeresting things I learned about cooking the basmati with the pasta method the other night was that the left over rice was simply amazing! It did NOT pack together, but stayed separate, and unlike long grain rice cooked by the "normal" method and refrigerated, it did not reharden in the center. I had it yesterday with a little chicken teriyaki I threw together and it was such a surprise!

                                I don't think I've ever cooked Calrose that way, but now I'm curious and plan to give it a shot. How I cook Calrose depends on what I'm going to use it for. For sushi, I do it the very old fashioned way (according to Sushiman, I think he said something like the way grandmothers do <g>) and toss it and fan it when I add the vinegar, which makes it shiny. If I'm cooking it to go with a non-Asian meal, I add some butter at the beginning and end up with separate grains of rice that don't stick together. I love it that way with roast pork and gravy. I have no idea whether Sam would have doubled over laughing, but I sure wish he was still around so we could find out...!

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  Maybe whether you desire individual grains or a bit of stickiness depends on whether you eat rice with a spoon or with chopsticks.

                                2. re: KaimukiMan

                                  That's interesting. I grew up in Hawaii and never heard anyone call "normal" medium grain rice sticky rice, just glutinous rice.

                                  Anyway, I love lots of different types of rice and usually have several on hand to suit my mood and the particular meal.

                                  I am still curious to hear if anyone has actually ever sent back rice in an Asian restaurant.

                                  1. re: akq

                                    I've never sent it back, but one or two places I haven't gone back to because of bad rice. Don't think they are around any more.

                                    I think calling medium grain rice 'sticky rice' is something they only say to us white folks here in Honolulu. I generally assume sticky rice means glutenous rice. And i have had long grain rice overcooked till it resembles - in a very superficial way - medium grain rice. It isn't nice rice that way.

                              2. This isn't strictly about rice, but when I get a bad version of something that the restaurant should consistently do well (pizza in a pizza place, or rice in a Chinese place, for example), I wouldn't bother to send it back. I'd just write the whole restaurant off. (Or if it's a place that usually good, I'd assume it was a bad night and give it another shot some other week.)

                                Years ago, when my kids were little, we stopped at a Chili's because it was the only place we could find. My husband's meal was horrific and I told him to send it back. His response was why bother? I just don't trust this place to make anything good.

                                I guess that's my attitude toward Asian places that make bad rice. If they can't do that well, do you really want to eat fish or pork there?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Isolda

                                  I lived in Asia for 2 years, working at a hotel. It was surprising how often the cooks making rice for staff would botch it. People who eat rice three times a day should know how to cook it, right? Well the measuring is more of a guesstimate, and guesses can be wrong.

                                  1. re: babette feasts

                                    wow. I'm curious where in asia that was Babette, not doubting you - just curious. I don't know as i ever saw poorly cooked rice once the whole 3 years I was in Korea, but then I was on the customer side of the equation. I'm sure in Italy right now there are some waiters and staff grousing about how cook never does pasta right for the staff. They get the stuff thats been sitting too long in the water, etc.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      I thought that kind of pasta was only good for tossing to the dogs :)

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                        I was in Bhutan. Cooking method: rinse rice, add water to some unknown standard of coverage, put in rice cooker, stir at some point. I know some people use the 'cover with water as deep as your first knuckle' method, which of course can yield different results depending on how long your fingers are.

                                        We offered both western and Bhutanese options in the guest dining room, and if the rice for the guests was total crap, you better believe someone would have to make it again. But for the staff, not so much. To be fair, in restaurants in the US staff meal is sometimes as good as what is on the menu, other times a rushed afterthought with oversalted trimmings of this and undercooked scraps of that.