HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Piggybacking on the 'charging for bread' thread, how do you feel about Asian restaurants that charge for rice?

Or tea, for that matter.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. If it's a dish that's typically accompanied by rice (not a noodle dish) then yes, being charged for it would piss me off. I can't say I've ever been charged before for it, so any place that did would just scream "nickel and dime" to me. I don't drink tea so I can't say anything to that.

      1. In my experience, all Asian restaurants charge for rice and always have. It's a standard menu item.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          Where do you live? In my region - DC and the MD & VA burbs - rice is never a separate charge unless you order extra rice. Most will give you brown rice upon request without a separate charge - I guess because it has become such a common request that they routinely prepare it as they do white rice.

          1. re: Just Visiting

            Location's in my profile.

            So, where you are, would they offer you a free choice between boiled rice, fried rice or soft/crispy noodles in a Chinese restaurant? Or boiled rice, pilau rice or one of the breads in an Asian restaurant? Here, these would all be menu items for the customer to order and pay for.

            1. re: Harters

              No - just regular ordinary white rice or brown rice. Definitely NOT fried rice or noodles. Those are never included.

              1. re: Just Visiting

                In Central PA most places offer white or fried as the free option. Fried is pretty bare bones though, maybe just onions.

                1. re: melpy

                  We have the choice of steamed, fried (just egg, usually), or brown. I've never been charged for rice.

                  1. re: Kontxesi

                    I've been to quite a few places that charge extra for brown rice.

                    1. re: chowser

                      I've tried to cook brown rice once or twice.... I would charge extra for it, too. :|

            2. re: Just Visiting

              I live in Taiwan, and paying extra for rice is very common. Doesn't bother me - it's usually a nominal fee.

          2. Charging for rice used to annoy me. The reason was that it was understood, I thought, that rice accompanied a meal, the same way that a hamburger bun accompanied a hamburger, that sugar and cream accompanied a cup of coffee, and that bread appeared automatically on a table before anything else was served.

            What I really objected to was the restaurant being sneaky about it. If nothing was said until the the charge showed up on the bill, that was irritating. On the other hand, if the charge was mentioned on one of those little billboard things, about three or four inches tall, advertising drinks or appetizers, I did not mind. Ditto, if it were asterisked on the menu.

            When I lived in Singapore, my attitude changed relative to restaurants in Singapore and Malaysia. There, as my Singaporean Chinese girlfriend pointed out, there was a strict custom. There were restaurants that were long and skinny, facing the street, with many tables bordering the street before you actually entered the restaurant. (Okay, a patio or street cafe arrangement.) Usually there was no air conditioning. All food was served on melamine plates. Prices were rock bottom.

            There, the restaurants charged a pittance for (1) napkins! (yeah, napkins); (2) appetizers, consisting of dried soybeans, rice crackers, mini-pretzels and dehydrated peas coated with dried wasabi, which appeared automatically, whether you wanted them or not; and (3) rice. This charge appeared automatically on every bill and nothing was every said about it. Singaporeans understood that this was the custom. Restaurants with tablecloths, air conditioning, and regular plates, did not charge for such things.

            So, because it was routine and everyone understood it, no one complained. I should also point out that the charge was about 50 cents (Singapore dollar) which was about 25 cents (U.S. dollar) back in those wonderful days.

            I should also point out that a standard-sized plate was heaped high with rice. The first time that this happened, I looked askance at my girlfriend, who explained: This is a working man's restaurant--many Thai and Malay laborers. Rice is the mainstay of their diets. It is understood."

            So, I guess whether I got irritated or not depended on what the custom was, but certainly, in the U.S., if a restaurant says not a word and then charges you for rice, this is sneaky--especially if the charge is substantial, for instance, more than a U.S. dollar.

            Thanks for listening to my long-winded response.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gfr1111

              I don't know if that's so much a Singaporean custom as it is a mainland Chinese custom.

              I had no problem paying for the napkins, but I rarely wanted to eat the grotty boiled peanuts or mysterious pickles.

              As for charging for rice, ya, most places I've eaten at in China that served it charged pittance for it. Unless it was a dish that specifically included rice...

            2. I've never seen an Asian restaurant that charged seperately for plain rice if it was coming with another dish. I'd be more than a little peeved and ask them to take the rice away and take it off the bill. You pay extra if you want the fancy stuff ('special' fried rice, noodles etc.) not plain rice.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  There's a lot of truth in what he has expressed. The dining public for the most part has this sense of entitlement when they go out for dinner and no segment gets more abused than the Asian restaurants. Part of the blame is due to the owners themselves of these restaurants for providing cheap, inexpensive meals...because this is what they feel their customers want. The proliferation of the AYCE restaurants does not help the cause. I can recall sitting in a very nice local Chinese restaurant where all items except Lobster was under $15, and most items were under $10....the patrons next to us while looking over the menu remarked how expensive the menu was and they could go to the Buffet for the cost of one dish on the menu.

                  In recent years, flour and corn have become very expensive. Restaurants and Bakeries raised their prices accordingly and prices on small items doubled. A bagel which you could purchase for .40cents, was now a dollar. A pizza that was $10, now became $14+...that's was all understandable, but now that flour prices have settled, the prices of those items did not come down accordingly. Now rice is expensive, it makes sense that the rice should be charged for. In an effort to keep their prices in line, the Asian restaurants are giving you the option to order rice or not to keep your check average down....and for this they are deemed as being small mined thinking and deceptive.
                  Adding the tea into the mix only compounds the problem on perception.

                  last time I looked, restaurants other than Asian, do not offer me free hot tea or iced tea....and why should they? To expect it is ridiculous, but to receive it you should be grateful.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    It *used* to be quite common for Western restaurants to offer coffee as part of the meal. Probably you could have tea, too.

                    1. re: mwhitmore

                      And bread baskets, too. The ubiquitous bread basket and butter dish was always sent to the table without asking and never charged for.

                      1. re: mwhitmore

                        Not to doubt you, as I'm sure you have experienced the free coffee...but in my neck of the woods, I cannot ever recall free coffee given as part of a meal unless it was a promotion, part of the Daily Specials on the Breakfast-Lunch or -Dinner Menu...or what was common on the Full Course menu where soup, salad, entree, sides, dessert and coffee was include.....Coffee only, never seen it and I live in the Diner Capital of the world.

                  2. This thread is somewhat surprising to me as rice is always listed at a price on the menu at every restaurant I've been to here in Toronto. Unless it's a lunch special, but in that case it's listed as part of the special. I've never expected complimentary rice.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: LexiFirefly

                      I'm sure this topic is more offensive to older generations in general....as the rice, while it may or may not have been listed on the menu, it was usually given for free with entree.

                      1. re: LexiFirefly

                        It's been SOP to charge in many parts of California for some time as the LA & SF hounds in this old thread on the same topic state. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/379053

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Thanks for that link, from before I was a registered Hound. One point is that Asians tend to think of a meal as 'rice-plus'. While non-Asians, me very much included, think of the meal as meat/seafood/vegetable/etc. with a side of rice. For me, more of a palate cleanser than a bulk fill-me-up.

                        2. re: LexiFirefly

                          I think this is a regional thing. My father can't remember not paying for rice either. Maybe Canada is different in this respect?

                          1. re: LexiFirefly

                            I'd think most of the US expects rice to be free as part of the Asian meal. Certainly in the mid-Atlantic, midwest and the South. I don't think I've ever dined at an Asian restaurant in the US where rice was a separate charge.

                            Overseas is a completely different story, however.

                            I have to echo another poster's reaction. Rice is an integral element to so many Asian, especially Chinese meals. Ordering, say, stir fry beef or sauteed pork belly without the rice is pointless. The rice is needed to absorb the excess fat/grease/juice from the main dish. Restaurants would be more practical to just deliver the rice "free" while quietly adding the cost to the main dishes.

                            1. re: Roland Parker

                              "The rice is needed to absorb the excess fat/grease/juice from the main dish. "


                            2. re: LexiFirefly

                              Well, Toronto, Hawaii and California are similar in having high densities of Asians and less Americanized restaurants.

                          2. The Chinese place I used to frequent never charged for rice until, suddenly, they did. I asked why and was told that the rice farmers had a bad crop and their cost was now off the charts. As a result, they had to recoup some by charging the customer. Since it was only an additional .50, I could accept that.

                            1. I've eaten, and worked in, Chinese restaurants all over the US and I have never charged, or been charged, for steamed rice, or tea. Ever.
                              That is just foreign to me. My jaw would probably drop to the floor.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: AngelaID

                                I guess you never worked in Massachusetts...................
                                There it is common to charge for both steamed rice and hot tea. BUT, the diner must order these. They are not brought automatically and added to the bill.
                                Here in Connecticut they are include din the cost of the meal with the exception of the terrible buffet retaurants that charge for the hot tea. No they are not terrible for charging for tea, the food is terrible.

                              2. I don't drink tea or eat white rice so it makes no difference to me.

                                1. Rice is almost always a menu item that you are charged for at Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, and Vietnamese restaurants here in Honolulu, unless it's part of a lunch or dinner plate (a combination plate - usually on the last page of the menu.) Occasionally when you order a lot of food, they will bring rice as a complimentary side. I remember one Filipino restaurant that made a point of letting people know that they didn't charge for rice (I can still hear the waitress . . . "but it comes with it, it is free") when we asked her not to bring rice.

                                  1. I don't mind their charging by bowl but think they should ask how many bowls you want and that there is a charge for it. I've been to places that bring out a huge bowl and charge per person whether the person eats rice or not; or if people share a bowl. I tend to let it go but my mom will always argue. They always order fried rice/noodles for the kids who don't eat white rice; my father and brother don't eat white rice, or barely any. That's seven people right there.

                                    1. Most (all?) places where I am will charge for rice unless it's an explicit part of the dish (i.e. combo plates - where you get some rice, a main and an app, or you'll see rice plates at thai places (gra pow), etc)

                                      1. I need clarification. Are you talking about nobody at the table ordering white rice and the server bringing a dish of white rice with the meal and charging you for it or are you talking about somebody at the table ordering white rice and (knowingly or unknowingly) being charged for said rice?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: PotatoHouse

                                          Typically, after you have placed the order, the server will ask 'Do you want rice with that?' On the menu under Rice Dishes, besides fried rice, is 'Steamed Rice $1'.

                                          1. re: mwhitmore

                                            In that case, being the skeptic that I am, I would probably assume I was going to be charged for it.

                                        2. Seems SOP in our neighborhood to have a menu item "steamed rice $1".
                                          If we are a large group, we might state to the server that we only need X bowls of rice.
                                          And I'm totally fine with being charged for rice that I order. Ditto for bread.

                                          1. Sorry, that's like including potatoes on the plate but charging extra for gravy. This is the kind of nickel-dime crap they do at a lot of Italian restaurants and most steak houses, which is why I tend to avoid most of those places.

                                            In the highly competitive - perhaps too-competitive - Asian-restaurant culture of the San Gabriel Valley, only a very high-end place could get away with this. The ones we tend to patronize, where the PP tab is usually around $10-12, never charge for steamed rice. A breakfast place or snack bar might charge for tea, but we're never charged for it in a dinner or dim sum setting.

                                            By the same token, any Mexican restaurant that charges for chips and salsa falls off of our list, too.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              i would actually be more offended if a high end restaurant...that already factor's in everything for the cost of entree....than an inexpensive place that charged for the examples you have given.

                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                There are a number of SGV dim sum restaurants that charge for tea. King Hua and Elite come to mind.

                                                1. re: boogiebaby

                                                  I always assume I will be charged for my traditional order of green tea.

                                                  1. re: boogiebaby

                                                    I've been to a few restaurants that charge for certain teas, eg. chrysanthemum. I'm fine with that.

                                                2. I remember when my Mom and I used to go to our once-a-week diner meetings, we'd get free coffee with our meal, free rolls and butter and free water (tap water back then was clear, clean and smelled right) - today even if you go in to order chicken wings - they charge for the celery and blue cheese.
                                                  Desperate times...

                                                  1. To me it's a " the straw that broke the camels back" problem. If the food is good, the service good, and I enjoyed myself it doesn't bother me. Rice and tea aren't expensive and even if they cost extra I would still order them. But if it is just one many issues with the meal ( service, food, etc) I would be more inclined to complain.

                                                    1. It is what it is.

                                                      Some restos don't charge for rice when ordering a set menu (for 2, 4, 6, etc) and throw in free soup and even dessert. Either way, restos have to make money, and if they provide free rice they may simply raise prices elsewhere to make up for it. Rice, like all other ingredients in a restaurant, costs money to buy.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: LotusRapper

                                                        Exactly. When their price went up, the place I go to had to start charging .50 for a container. No big deal; certainly not worth getting upset over it.

                                                      2. For some inexplicable reason, I feel that East Asian restaurants shouldn't charge for rice, but I'm perfectly fine paying for plain basmati rice in Indian restaurants. Go figure