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Rice: Flavorful by itself? [moved from Home Cooking]


my teacher told me that good rice is actually flavorful all on it's own.

You dont need to heap on condiments or spices. Just cook it right, and it provides it's own flavor component.

Is this true?

For the life of me, I just cant get my mind wrapped around this.

Blame it on my steady American diet of Uncle Ben's and Quick minute rice which has left me with the impression that all rice was just as bland and tasteless and wsnt complete without adding a whole bunch of add-ins and other stuff to it.

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  1. Absolutely true.

    Try a good Jasmine rice for example. Just eat it au natural and see for yourself.

    1. New harvest rice, that hasn't been sitting around forever. Cooked properly. Yum. And left over cold for breakfast :D

      1. I agree. I am a fan of brown rice, jasmine, basmati, and wild rice. When cooked properly, they are wonderful. The scent and natural flavor really comes into play.
        Now, with regular white rice... cooking it with just water? I don't know if I would like that. My idea of plain white rice is still with a small amount of salt or butter in it. :D

        3 Replies
        1. re: QueenDairy

          Maybe, it's because I spent a couple years in Japan as an early teen, but give me a bowl of Plain, white Japanese rice, New harvest, it has a delicate perfume and YES its own light flavor. I <3 it.

          No butter, No Salt and definitely NO SOY SAUCE

          1. re: AAQjr

            I'm sure it is alot more healthy as well! Haha :) And I absolutely love that soft aroma of freshly made rice. Heaven!

            1. re: AAQjr

              That's how I learned to appreciate plain rice - in many Japanese meals it comes on the side, and is generally eaten straight up. And never, never with soy sauce poured on it - that's the Japanese equivalent of going out for a nice meal and dumping ketchup all over your food. Soy is only used as a condiment in very specific circumstances.

              But white rice does have a light but distinct flavour on its own. Uncle Ben's, though, I'm not so sure. I don't think I'd eat that straight.

          2. Brown rice has a lot of flavor especially short grain. White rice has no taste nor should it. Its role in Asian cuisine is as unsalted bland counterpoint to flavorful side dishes be they meat or vegetable. It is only fit for filling potholes. Henry Miller said that originally. He said white bread was only good for filling potholes. Not a health nazi here ....just my opinion

            7 Replies
            1. re: zzDan

              "White rice has no taste nor should it."

              White rice is good to "fill in the gap" as you said, zzDan. However, I usually add a tiny amount of either salt or butter to it, although this highly depends on the meal.
              Maybe I am picky... perhaps it is my culture, or the way I was brought up...? My family has made white rice this way for generations. Now, when I enjoy Asian cuisine, plain white rice (no salt, etc) is perfect. I agree with that. It soaks up the sauce from the entree nicely.

              1. re: QueenDairy

                "White rice has no taste nor should it"

                Too bad you've never eaten a quality Basmati-but maybe it's better if you never do.

                1. re: Sam Salmon

                  Me? I was quoting and responding to what zzDan said:
                  "White rice has no taste nor should it."

                  I happen to love the natural flavor of basmati and jasmine. I only add salt or butter to the normal variety of white rice though.

                    1. re: Sam Salmon

                      I have some cooked brown Basmati in refrigerator and will eat some today by itself......Adding some Kikkoman to it

                  1. re: zzDan

                    "White rice has no taste nor should it."

                    Not true. I grew up in an Asian household that ate rice as a staple, with several highly flavorful varieties to choose from in our pantry. The lightly perfumed flavor of jasmine was my favorite, though I could also get into the really aromatic varieties of basmati, but I couldn't abide the musty flavor of milagrosa. The difference in flavors was especially evident when rice was mismatched with food. Basmati will overwhelm a delicate dish of soy-braised chicken. Jasmine makes for weak biryani. I'd daresay matching white rice varieties could be as difficult a job as being a sommelier.

                    1. re: JungMann

                      You are correct and I was too extreme. All rice has taste but in Asian cuisine (very nebulous I know) rice is the main food. The meats and side dishes stand out in contrast to the blander rice be it Jasmine, Basmati or Lundgren from California

                      "Basmati will overwhelm a delicate dish of soy-braised chicken."
                      Not for me. You are more attuned to this

                  2. As stated above, true. I prefer brown basmati, but white basmati or jasmine are great too.

                    One key is to add a bit of salt to the water before cooking as that is your only chance to season the rice itself. I usually go with about 1/2 tsp per cup of rice and 1.5 cups of water/stock etc.


                    1. This reminds me of a similar thread about pasta. I was of the notion that pasta itself is quite delicious, not just a vehicle for sauce. Interestingly though, I don't feel the same way about rice. This coming from someone who's been eating rice as the central part of the meal since the womb.

                      I did notice that after we switched to brown rice, eating white, fluffy steamed rice was like eating candy, but only when paired with banchan. I can and love to eat just rice with butter, but I think that's more about the butter than it is about the rice. I can sit and eat plain Thai sticky rice, but there I think it's more about the texture.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: soypower

                        This discussion has stayed in my head all night and now I realize it comes down to this: While I can't imagine a meal without rice, I can't imagine a meal with only rice. I was also reminded this morning that I always take one spoonful of rice when it's freshly made, so maybe I do like the taste of rice. As far as nuances and subtleties amongst different brands, well...

                        For the record, a lot of cheap wines taste good to me as well.

                        1. re: soypower

                          I find the differences between the cheaper and more expensive brands to be really apparent. I never used to think so, until I started to use brown rice more often. To me, the differences are not subtle at all!

                          Now wine, on the other hand. Give me a $12 bottle of wine any day. Heck even $8.

                          1. re: soypower

                            I was also reminded this morning that I always take one spoonful of rice when it's freshly made ...

                            I thought I was the only one.

                        2. I eat rice at least once a day, more often twice and quite often thrice. I do think that rice has a particular flavour of its own and in fact when the rice (yes, just plain ordinary rice served alongside a meal) is "wrong" it can ruin a whole meal for me - like when basmati gets served with South Indian food, which to me just tastes and feels all wrong. Actually I think basmati should be kept for certain occasions, I hate how it gets used everywhere. I like to choose the right kind of rice to go with my mood and my meal, though it is true that my daily rice is usually one of two - sona masoori or rose matta.

                          I know that a lot of people in South and East Asia don't cook plain rice with salt. I usually add a tiny tiny tiny half pinch. It doesn't really "salt" the rice, just lifts the flavour a tiny bit. Then when the rice is perfectly cooked, to me it tastes divine. A little mouthful on its own reminds me that all is right with the world. Then I can eat it with other foods, knowing that the taste of the rice is providing exactly the right complimentry flavours to the food I am eating.

                          I guess I must just really like rice. I am surprised that no-one else here seems to feel a similar way though.

                          1. I can't begin to imagine how many gallons of saliva I've generated over the years in the last minutes of all the rice cooking cycles I've been near. The scent of rice permeates the kitchen and it's beautiful!
                            And that glorious perfume is definitely present in the rice I eat.
                            The only thing is that, because as a family we care about our rice and expect it to have flavour we make a bit of effort to source rice that we enjoy and appreciate. This means long journeys occasionally when we want to stock up on a particular brand and the rice we enjoy most isn't usually the cheapest of its kind available.
                            It is a slippery road once you start enjoying rice and paying attention. Techniques you may have once not bothered with - like rinsing the rice - start becoming important. Then you may start adding additional steps, like allowing the rice to dry in a colander for an hour or so and then soaking it for another hour before cooking, because the texture and taste improves further. Then you might start mixing combinations of rice (like sticky and non-sticky) for certain dishes.
                            Personally, I think it's worth it. Appreciating rice and bread is part of being human and grown well, processed with care, cooked correctly, rice is innately delicious.

                            Muchlove - you are certainly not alone

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: MoGa

                              I think it needs cooking with salt but otherwise I agree that plain basmati rice is delicious.

                            2. I love the flavor of good rice. I spend a little more, and get good qualtiy, IMO, Lundberg. I also will toast the rice a bit before cooking it.
                              I could never stand converted or instant rice. Yuck. Even as a child.
                              Jasmine and basmati are both quite fragrant and flavorful.

                              1. On occasion I have been in the presence of people of various Asian backgrounds who, upon tasting rice at a home or a restaurant, declare its level of deliciousness or lack there of. "This is really good rice!" or "This rice is old!" or "They have used cheap rice." Plain rice has its own virtues. I happen to love good quality basmati that has been cooked with a little bit of salt in the water. It is heavenly.

                                1. Ok, I'll play contrarian. Sort of.

                                  I do in fact enjoy the flavor of rice. It's an important part of the dish. And I appreciate especially flavorful high quality rices.

                                  Likewise I think it's important to taste the pasta in a dish and not drown it in sauce. There's an important balance to be met.

                                  But just as I don't find completely un-sauced pasta appealing as a dish (unless it's something like ravioli, etc, and even then the tiniest drizzle of melted butter helps), I never find myself preferring to eat rice in complete absence of other flavors. It has an important flavor on its own, but to me it's better as a part of a whole.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Can't that be said about most any food? I can't think of anything right off hand that I want to eat all by itself as a meal.

                                    1. re: kengk

                                      kengk, while I agree with you, I would say that I could eat eggs by themselves as a meal all unto itself.

                                      1. re: kengk

                                        I don't know about a whole meal, but I can snack on cheese or fruit or bread or many veggies without particularly wanting anything else to flavor it. A good steak doesn't necessarily need anything more than salt and maybe pepper (though that doesn't stop me from elaborating at times).

                                        Can't say the same of plain rice.

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          I think I would actually prefer plain rice with nothing else to a perfect steak, if I could only have one plain food for my dinner. I would feel very aggrieved to have to eat the steak without bread or potato. I'm one of those people that just don't consider a meal a meal without bread. Rice sort of soothes that need.

                                    2. I like plain properly cooked calrose rice with a nice steak, pork or lamb chop, like it just fine.

                                      1. If you think that plain white rice is, well, plain, you've never had a bowl of new crop calrose. When the bags of new crop come in, I buy one (50# bag) even if I still have a 50# bag of non-new crop in the pantry. I love new crop, and am perfectly happy eating a potful of it. No salt, no shoyu, no nothin'. Just me, a bowl, some hashi, and my new crop. MMMM.

                                        1. I grew up on buttered Uncle Ben's too, but it didn't take much to 'convert' me to the wonderful subtleties of different kinds of "real" rice, and even nonreal rice, like wild rice. I pretty much love them all.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: EWSflash

                                            FWIW-I finally sourced some real Korean Rice for years I've been told it was a superior product.

                                            Now I have to work up the courage to spend the outrageous amount of money asked.

                                          2. I completely agree with Cowboyardee.

                                            I love rice. I eat it at least 5 days a week, most weeks.
                                            I have to eat it with something. By itself, it's just not all that appetizing.
                                            Same for pasta.
                                            They have their own flavors that are important contributions to a dish, but they need something else to complete the meal.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: racer x

                                              Agree with the jasmine rice, I love the flavor and aroma...as far as other rice I do exactly as my mother taught me long grain white rice, rinsed (though this was more her preference than mine) cooked in a rice cooker with chicken broth as the liquid...depending on what I am putting on the rice (I hardly ever serve plain rice) and if I have some I will also add a thread or two of saffron.

                                            2. Definitely. Especially jasmine and brown basmati. Of course arborio is different altogether but we go through a lot of it at our house. Wild rice also has its own flavour - it smells and tastes nutty.

                                              We store bay leaves in our plain white rice to add just a hint of flavour that is barely discernible. It is also said to deter weevils but thankfully we do not have that problem.

                                              Recently I read that Iranians ask how old the basmati rice is when purchasing in markets. It is said that they cook only with rice that is "aged" for a year or longer as it is to have developed a better flavour and texture.