Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Is a Rice Ball?

Rice ball, split in half and quartered

Enter a pizza-by-the-slice place in New York City -- which is about 90 percent of all pizza joints here -- and you'll be offered a wide selection of pre-made pizzas, all ready to be reheated. You can choose a classic slice like marinara, or maybe something you can't find back home, like lasagna pizza. What the heck, make it one of each.

They'll also have your basic mozzarella sticks and, more than likely, a softball-sized breaded hunk of ... something.

That's a rice ball.

A rice ball is basically a large ball of rice laced with tomato sauce and cheese and stuffed with ground beef and a few peas. It's coated and fried and, when ordered, reheated in a giant pizza oven.

It's bland, not spicy at all. In fact, it could do with a few red pepper flakes. It's also not very crunchy, although I suspect the homemade versions probably are. You can't taste the peas at all -- they must be there only for color.

What rice balls lack in delectability they make up for in availability. You can't stumble into a pizza place around here without tripping over a tray of rice balls. And even though they aren't that great, Paul and I continue to recommend them to visitors. They're not bad, after all, and they're just so different. But if you're looking for different and delicious, skip the rice ball and go for another slice of lasagna pizza. Yum.


  1. One thing about American dining that I've never completely understood is the tipping system: do you guys only tip in "proper" restaurants, or is tipping expected at places like "pizza joints" as well?

  2. Generally, we leave tips only at "proper" restaurants -- anywhere where your food is served to you and you're using real silverware! I'd never leave a tip at a pizza-by-the-slice joint, although I would leave a tip at a sit-down restaurant serving pizza.



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