Salted rice
February 4, 2013 1:37 AM   Subscribe

Is it common to add salt when cooking plain boiled or steamed rice? Specifically, is this widely done in India, China or Japan?
posted by dontjumplarry to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have never seen this called for in the cooking instructions of rice imported from India, China, or Japan, and my gut feeling is that it is not really done. I have only seen this even suggested when cooking with Europeans or Latin Americans, which makes me think that the cooking of pasta and rice are somehow being confused.
posted by molecicco at 2:26 AM on February 4, 2013

In Japan, salt isn't added when cooking plain white rice.
posted by misozaki at 2:38 AM on February 4, 2013

In our Sri Lankan family, both in Sri Lanka and among the many migrants, salt is ALWAYS added to rice. To my tastebuds, curry accompanied by unsalted rice tastes slightly wrong.
posted by bunglin jones at 2:49 AM on February 4, 2013

In Nepal, among my Nepali friends, plain rice isn't salted during cooking or after. The salt is in the curry and the daal, as well as the pickle/aachar served with the meal. However, I add some salt to the rice when I cook it - because I think it wakes up the flavor a bit better.
posted by infodiva at 3:03 AM on February 4, 2013

I've seen salt added to cooked rice in many Asian recipes, but I've never seen salt added during cooking.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:53 AM on February 4, 2013

Iranian recipes call for salting the everliving crap out of rice.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:01 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Came to say Persian food. You salt (and butter/oil) the water before cooking the rice.
posted by phunniemee at 5:56 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've never seen or heard of salt added to plain white rice in Chinese cooking. As a reference point, I am Chinese-American.
posted by mbidi at 6:05 AM on February 4, 2013

Delia Smith's "perfect rice" recipe has you put the rice in a frying pan with some oil and onions and add boiling water and salt. Unfortunately, she doesn't explain it (either on the website or in the cookbook)--I have no idea whether the onions (or the oil or the salt) are there for flavour or because they somehow make the rice cook better.

I also have no idea whether anyone actually follows this recipe (I don't think I ever have, though it bears a certain resemblance to Rice-a-Roni), but something sounded familiar about phinniemee's answer and I had the cookbook out already, so I checked.

I have an Indian cookbook that doesn't salt the rice. Manjula's Kitchen does and is pretty close to Delia Smith sans onion. (Manjula cooks without onions, IIRC.)
posted by hoyland at 6:08 AM on February 4, 2013

Oops, Manjula has you add oil and water (and salt) simultaneously, not cook the rice in the oil first, so it's not actually that close to to the Delia Smith recipe, other than in ingredients.
posted by hoyland at 6:10 AM on February 4, 2013

In Chinese cooking, the only instance I can think of adding salt to cooking white rice is when making congee. (I'm Chinese-Canadian.)
posted by methroach at 6:51 AM on February 4, 2013

Japanese-American here who grew up around many different Asian groups. Among East and Southeast Asians, white rice is pretty universally just rice and water, but the kind of rice used can differ.
posted by Diagonalize at 6:52 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not done in Japan. Salt or other seasonings are sometimes added to the rice once cooked.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:11 AM on February 4, 2013

IF you haven't, you should try it (assuming any intended toppings aren't too salt heavy). It's like salting pasta, it gives the rice more flavor.
posted by anti social order at 7:37 AM on February 4, 2013

It's because in Chinese cuisine (and the others I guess), you just add soy sauce to the dish after the rice is cooked, voilĂ , salty flavour added-- in more western cuisine, we don't use soy, so we add salt during the cooking process.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:59 AM on February 4, 2013

I add butter and salt to my rice after the water boils. BOY does it make good rice!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:21 AM on February 4, 2013

I've been shown how to make rice by Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Malays and never has salt been mentioned. Or any kind of oil. It's rice and water. If you want to make porridge, you add stock or more water and some flavouring, but proper steamed rice is served as is. There are rice recipes that are rice cooked in chicken fat or coconut milk or other delicious heart-destroying flavourings, but that's not standard rice. Rice at restaurants is always plain, and actually tastes mildly sweet.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:58 AM on February 4, 2013

In Chinese cuisine the rice is traditionally eaten with food, so there's no need to add salt. I don't know too many Chinese people who douse their rice with soy sauce.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:01 AM on February 4, 2013

I've been given a set by step How To Make Rice lesson by an Indian* friend, and it did not include salt.

*This Indian friend is Punjabi, insists that his parents never ate rice at home, and I happen to know that he picked up a lot of his Indian recipes with help from Manjula. No idea where he got his rice method.
posted by Sara C. at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2013

In Chinese cuisine the rice is traditionally eaten with food

This is the same for Persian cuisine. Most rice dishes are either a pilaf (polo) or a sauce served over rice (khoresht). This (usually) does not diminish the salting of the rice.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:10 AM on February 4, 2013

Nthing that adding salt is standard operating procedure for Iranian/Persian rice recipes, including Shirin Pollo, a sweet rice dish that includes currants (or other dried berries), candied carrots, orange zest and almonds.
posted by Good Brain at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2013

East India - we don't usually add salt.

If I were adding any veggies to the rice (onions, peas, carrots, whatever) I'd add some oil or butter and some salt. But just plain white rice? No salt. Your blood pressure will thank you some day.

(I do usually put in a couple of cloves or cardamom pods to add to the Basmati aroma.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:02 PM on February 4, 2013

North India - we don't usually add salt either.
posted by vidur at 11:38 AM on February 5, 2013

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