Why A Rice Cooking Video Has The Internet Seeing Red

The current reckoning on race and cultural appropriation has landed in a big way in our kitchens. Sure, the subject matter this time is a tempest in a teacup compared to issues the U.S. is now facing. This particular debate stems from the right and wrong way to cook rice.

The trouble started when London-based, Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng posted a video to YouTube, reacting to a BBC Food demonstration of how to prepare egg fried rice. As Ng saw it (in character as Uncle Roger) BBC presenter Hersha Patel broke almost all the rules for cooking rice, even using a British teacup to make sure the rice and water were in a 1-to-2 ratio. Her most egregious error, however, was using a colander to drain her overly-wet rice after it was done cooking. "How can you drain rice with colander?! This is not pasta!" Ng exclaimed. "Where you learn how to make rice? Some white people cooking school, or something," Uncle Roger chided. In response, Asian-American comedian Jenny Yang took to Twitter to declare Patel's rice-cooking method "a hate crime."

Jokes tweeted by comedians aside, a serious analysis of the egg fried rice kerfuffle probably does require that we don't simply laugh and move on. A writer for ANCX said the Uncle Roger video deserves a second, closer look.

Is there really a right way and a wrong way to cook rice?

Ng was intentionally playing on Asian stereotypes for humorous effect, according to ANCX, especially with his show of militancy about the right way to cook rice. As ANCX points out, different cultures prepare rice in different ways. Indeed, as it turns out, Indian cookbooks refer to the "pasta method" of cooking rice which involves draining cooked rice through a colander. ANCX blames BBC for mashing up different cultures. The British network failed to explain that Patel, an Indian cook, was making a Chinese dish in a way she might have been more familiar with.

That said, the widely-ridiculed Patel tried to save face, appearing in a short video with Ng to say she does know how to cook rice properly. Look for Ng and Patel to appear together soon in a new rice-cooking video. As for the original Patel video, BBC Food apparently admitted defeat and took it down. But you can check out a different rice how-to video from BBC, which does a good job of showing what some people, at least, consider to be the right and wrong ways to cook rice. It appears BBC knew the "right way" all along, as it posted this video two years ago.