Rice: An Asian Culinary Keystone – Factors for its Popularity

Bag and a plate of rice on a rice field background

It’s a commonly accepted fact that rice is a staple food in certain countries, particularly Asian countries. What isn’t so common is questioning why it is so popular in those countries. Have you ever given it much thought as to why rice is so popular in Asia, but not particularly popular in say, America?

What do you think of when you think of Asian countries and rice? I would bet you my bottom dollar that you have visions of expanses of rice paddies being tended by locals with their conical sedge hats pointing to the sky and the sun casting a somewhat golden romantic glow across the marsh-like waters. I recently got onto this line of thinking, which brought the Asian countries’ staple food source very much to the forefront of my mind: rice. 

In the Western World, rice is considered an accompaniment, whereas, in many Asian countries, it is much more than that. Is this a poverty-based concept, or do the Asian communities just love rice that much? I suspect it is the latter, to be honest. Rice is undoubtedly a popular food choice in Asian countries, but one must ask why. Below, I mention 13 possible reasons for the popularity of rice in those countries. If you would like to delve into each one of them, find them listed and unpacked below. 

13 reasons rice is so popular in many Asian countries:

1. Many Asian countries provide great climates and growing conditions for rice as a crop.

Rice for sale at the asian market

It’s fairly obvious that rice is a product that naturally grows in Asia. It’s best suited to the growing conditions and climates in that part of the world, and for that reason, it is actually where it grows best. This simple fact means that rice grows fast and strong in many Asian countries – which in turn makes this the crop of choice to grow for local food as well as for export. 

2. Rice is used to make a variety of additional products such as bread, cakes, and noodles. 

Rice can be boiled and eaten as it is, but there’s actually a lot more than can be done with it. Once harvested, rice can be ground into flour and then used to create a variety of other products, including bread, noodles, and cakes. 

3. About 90% of the world’s rice production is in Asia, making it a readily available food source in Asian countries. 

If you think about where most rice is made, what comes to mind? The answer is Asia, right? Of course, it is! Asia is known to make at least 90% of the world’s production of rice. This is an astronomical amount! Rice production in Asian countries exceeds consumption, meaning that there is plenty to go around and then some. Because rice is grown for local food as well as export, it is extremely easy to get rice. With it available everywhere, it’s the food of choice of many low-income communities. 

4. Rice is a cheaper food source than imported foods. 

Let’s talk about the cost of eating. It seems that no matter where you live, food prices are increasing. Often this means that families need to make choices about what to eat in order to save money and make meals go further. Imported cereals and grains in Asian countries are quite expensive for local families to buy. Rice is locally grown and, therefore, far cheaper for Asian communities to afford. 

Paddy rice terraces in countryside area of Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai, mountain hills valley in Vietnam

5. In Asian countries, rice availability symbolizes food security and political stability.

Rice is not only popular because it’s a good meal. It is also popular because of what it symbolizes and what it means for the people of Asia. As rice is seen as such an integral part of life in Asian countries – it is both a staple food source and a form of income – it is a great symbol of food security and a sign that the current political situation is stable

6. Rice is a fast-growing crop that can be harvested within just 4 months. 

How would you choose which crops are best to grow, if you were in charge of it? I bet after a bit of thinking, you would choose crops that do well in the climate you live in, and also that grow fast and can be harvested in the shortest space of time. Well, that’s one of the very reasons why rice is a popular food in certain countries where it grows well.

In large Asian communities, food production needs to be reliable and quick. Rice is a fast-growing crop and, therefore, a convenient crop to have growing when there are a lot of mouths to feed. 

7. Rice is a great source of energy – something needed in hardworking, poorer families.

It comes as no surprise that Asian countries are hard working. When hard physical labor is the norm, a food source that provides strength and a good amount of protein is needed – and that’s rice!

8. It tastes great!

One of the most important reasons why rice is so popular in Asian countries is that it tastes great. Yes, it is cheap and readily available and provides energy…but best of all, a bowl of rice is truly delicious. 

Japanese women eat rice

9. Rice is quite a versatile food that can be paired with just about anything.

In Western countries, it is common to think that rice can accompany any dish, but in Asian countries, the common thought is that any dish can accompany rice. Rice is extremely versatile and can be used to make a long list of meal types. 

10. Rice “carries” and enhances other flavors, making them longer-lasting on the palate. 

Because of the firm yet slightly absorbent nature of rice, it truly does take on the flavor of the food it is served with. The consistency and texture mean that any flavor can be fully transcended and reach its true potential.

11. For the hungry and hardworking, rice is a very filling and satisfying meal. 

Let’s face it; rice is a food type that really does fill a hungry hole. If there’s a hungry child or adult or even pet out there…and there’s nothing else to eat but rice, it will make a most satisfying meal. And best of all, it will keep them full for a long period of time. 

12. Rice exports boost Asian countries’ economies – something that is highly respected in Asian countries.  

Asian countries are very respectful of where their wealth comes from. From the highest-earning family to the lowest, there is great respect for the way in which the export of rice boosts the economy. How could it not be popular, knowing that?!

13. Rice stores well and can be easily transported.

Thai's rice collection in burlap bag

Many Asian communities look for food that can be stored, and that can be easily transported. Rice fits that description perfectly. 

Last Word

Who knew that there was so much more to rice than initially meets the eye, right? I, for one, have been delving into the “behind-the-scenes” of rice for quite some time and am no longer surprised by just how beneficial rice is as a crop. It’s a staple food source in many countries, but it is also a symbol of strength and nourishment.

If anyone you speak to ever wonders why rice is so popular in Asian countries, now you have 13 reasons to share with them! Rice – the wonder food of the world! 

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.