The month? March. The madness? Starch. The competition? Fierce.
Rice and shine, fellow Starch Madness fanatics. The time has come. Starch Madness 2023 is here.
After two years of pasta shapes and sauces respectively and a third of all things spuds, our fourth year wades into the rice paddy. Those little grains we know and love, the ones that span cultures and cuisines, are taking the stand. We've constructed a bracket of 64 rice-tastic dishes to battle it out to see which one reigns supreme(ly starchy).
At first glance, you may be convinced that shrimp fried rice is going to win. But that, dear reader, is for you to decide. This is a tournament of the people, and it can’t happen without you. There will surely be highs and lows, and no shortage of gleaming starchy dishes sprinkled across our Instagram page, so dust off that rice cooker and buckle up. We’re in for sugar and spice and everything rice.
Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat: Just as there was no one “best” pasta or potato dish, there’s no such thing as a “best” rice dish. While a little lighthearted competition can be fun, we’re not in the business of pitting cultures against each other and declaring one cuisine better than another. We simply wanted to put together a list of 64 rice dishes from around the world to highlight the incredible recipes in our library and the talented contributors who developed them.
How We Chose the Recipes
Selecting recipes for this bracket presented us with our biggest Starch Madness challenge to date. First off, because in many cultures, plain rice is arguably the most important of all rice preparations. But we couldn't really imagine how a bracket would work if we included those—whose bowl or plate of basic white rice would win? So right from the start, we decided to eliminate any such recipe from the bracket, despite their culinary significance.
We also tried to avoid any recipes that are built on rice-flour products, like rice noodle dishes, since it opened up a sprawling list of possibilities beyond the 64 recipes included here.
Even then, it's not an easy group of recipes to select. After all, just how many iterations of rice and beans exist in the world, and which should we include? Ultimately, this bracket is imbalanced, with some cuisines over-represented and others completely absent. That's largely a reflection of our particular library of rice recipes, in which some cuisines have been heavily covered and others not—this is something we continue to try to address by adding new recipes from an increasingly diverse range of contributors (this year, we used this round of Starch Madness to add 24 recipes to the site, as well as re-test and re-shoot a number of our existing rice recipes). Still, this list of 64 recipes barely scratches the surface of the world's many delicious rice dishes.
How the Bracket and Voting Will Work
Like the NCAA tournament, the Starch Madness bracket is made up of 64 contestants, divided between four regions. Unlike the NCAA tournament, each contestant represents something you can eat, as each region has 16 established rice dishes, seeded 1 through 16. That means there are four number-one seeds, four number-two seeds, and so on and so forth. Are you incensed by the fact that your favorite rice dish that isn't rice krispies has gotten a subpar seed? Allow us to explain. As far as determining seeding? We decided to just kind of have fun with it as a staff this year.
If you've never watched March Madness or filled out a bracket before, here's the drill: It's a single-elimination tournament, win-or-go-home, kicking off with the "strongest" teams (or, in this case, rice preparations) facing the "weakest" opposition. The field is cut in half at every round of competition, leading to the "Elite Ate" and "Final Forks." Survive and advance is the name of the game, and the format allows for high drama, with the possibility for shocking upsets and unlikely Cinderella stories at every turn. Download a bracket, fill it out, and try not to get too upset when your picks lose.
The kicker for Starch Madness is that you decide which dishes advance in the tournament! The winner of each matchup will be determined by popular vote on Instagram, playing out as a running vote in the "Stories" on our Serious Eats (@seriouseats) account. For those unfamiliar with Instagram, you can access our account's "Stories" by tapping the Serious Eats icon in the top left corner of the Serious Eats account page or, if you follow the account, your "Stories" feed. So make sure you follow us on Instagram if you'd like to vote!
Since there has been some confusion about this in the past three tournaments, we’re going to say that again, in bold: All of the voting for Starch Madness 2023 will take place on Instagram! You will need to have an Instagram account to participate; you cannot vote on our website, on third-party websites, on Facebook, on Pinterest, on Twitter, via email, phone, text message, fax, or telegraph. Yes, we realize not everyone uses Instagram. No, Instagram did not create this tournament. No, we are not employed by Instagram. Instagram happens to have an easy voting feature built into the application, and we are simply using it to facilitate this competition.
Voting opens for Round One tomorrow—Tuesday, March 14th—and we're kicking off with the Best in Grass region. The remaining three regions will have their Round One matchups over the next three days. Then we'll give the little grains the weekend to rest up before moving into Round Two next week, on March 20th. Voting for Round Three will take place on March 21st, voting for Round Four will take place on March 22nd, and the Grain Championship will take place on March 24th. Mark your calendars!
We will post updates here about notable match-ups, upsets, and the overall results, so if you're making bets with your friends, bookmark this page.
Not familiar with all of the dishes in the bracket and don't want to make the wrong picks? Fear not! There will be accompanying photos and short descriptions for each contestant in our Instagram voting match-ups.
With all that in mind, head over to Instagram, starting tomorrow, and vote for your favorite ricing stars to make sure they make it through to the next round in the Grain Event! Print and fill out a bracket (which comes in a handy black and white version) and, if you like, post a snap of it on Instagram and tag us in it! Debate the seedings, enlist your friends to make futile attempts to skew the results, make your case for paella in the comments, and try not to get starchstruck along the way. Starch Madness is here. Let's dance in the grain.
While it may feel like we’ve been at this for 423,801 years, it’s just been one week, my starchy mad little grains. How ya holdin’ up? Yeah, our brains are rice, too. Give it a little more time and they’ll turn into rice pudding.
Round 1 Recap
The Best in Grass region had some predictable outcomes, like Halal Cart Chicken and Rice’s 82% lead over Galinhada, and Shrimp Fried Rice’s 66% win over Indian Fried Rice. Kimbap took the (rice)cake over Dak Juk, which led me to wonder why they were pitted against each other in the first place (hey, I didn’t make the rules! My colleagues apparently did without consulting me). My little Middle Eastern heart is hurt at Sushi Rice prevailing over Dawali, and I promise, I’ll find who did this. Our closest call was with Nasi Goreng taking 52% of the vote over Hainanese Chicken Rice Set’s 48%—talk about a grassy situation!
The nail-biter of the Rice Capades region was Onigiri against Risotto al Salto; the former progressed in the tournament with a 54% lead. Other than that, the margins were pretty big, with Lamb Biryani in a 90% chokehold over Kedgeree and Italian powerhouse Arancini kicking Tuna and Rice Salad to the curb. Fan-favorite Rice Krispie Treats made it through, and we did notice a surprising amount of upset about its win over Suman. You win some, you lose…well more than some, as we’ll see in the rounds to come.
Day 3 of voting in the Grain Event region brought with it icons like Katsudon, Tahdig, and Mochi, all of which were close calls with their respective 58%, 62%, and 56% wins. The Palestinian dishes Qidreh, Hasweh, and Mansaf were all booted out faster than you could wash your own rice (which by the way, you should). Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango came out with a 70% lead over Rice Pudding, but I’m still wondering why 30% of you voted for a mushy rice bowl of sweet rice…maybe I’m the odd one out here, but please explain!
Finally, the Cereal Winners region brought with it some big winners and some even bigger losers (all of which still have a place in our hearts and on our plates!). Colombian Beans and Rice put its best grain to the test with a 62% lead over Peruvian Tacu Tacu. The sweet dishes in this round turned on the charm, but ultimately, Biko prevailed over Champorado with 80% of the vote. And how about Paella’s 80% lead over Arroz al Horno? Talk about major!
Ready for Round 2? Go Vote!
And that's that for the recap of Round 1 of Rice-tastic Starch Madness. Round 2 begins…right now! Head over to the Serious Eats Instagram page to weigh in on which teams deserve a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.
Round 2 Recap
And just like that, Round 2 came and went. Gather round the rice cooker for the scoop on what went down, and who made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
There’s not a single soup left in the running since Chicken and Rice Soup was booted after Nasi Goreng’s 61% win. Where will we ever find a bowl of comfort now? We sure as all heck need it given where things stand. Shrimp Fried Rice had a narrow 58% lead over Omurice, and Sushi Rice came out with a 60% win over Kimbap, which we’ll miss dearly. Halal Cart Chicken and Rice continues to breeze its way through this competition. What a starchtastic surprise (not).
So y’all like Italian food, huh? Shocker. The Rice Capades region saw Arancini’s 64% vote force Onigiri to aran-see itself out. We’ll show her the door, but we’ll give her a good squeeze on her way out. Jambalaya won by a landslide (a 73% one, to be exact) to Vietnamese Broken Rice, and Garlic Fried Rice is gone but not forgotten after Lamb Biryani took home the W. Oh, one more thing…should we talk about the fall of America’s sweetheart Rice Krispies to Nigerian Jollof Rice? You were good, darling, but we needed you to be great.
Another win for Italians came in the Grain Event, when you lot voted for Risotto alla Milanese over Arroz con Gandules with an overwhelming 70% majority. The audacity! The beloved Persian Tahdig fought a good fight with 43% of the vote, but ultimately lost to Katsudon’s 57%. And we’ve got to hand it to Bibimbap for holding its ground over Armenian-Style Rice Pilaf. The latter may be a staple, but the former is a lesson in versatility. As for the standoff between Mochi and Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango, let’s just say Sticky Rice knows how to get what she wants (which is a win in the form of 70%).
Cereal Winners saw a few closer calls, with Gyudon gaining 55% of the vote and giving Congee a soft punt off the field (wrong sport? Whatever!). So far, this competition hasn’t seen as much drama as when New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice faced off against Nicaraguan Arroz con Pollo and won by a mere 2%. We asked for drama, and the two surely delivered. The matches of Paella vs. Oyakodon and Colombian Beans and Rice vs. Biko were somewhat sleepers, but ultimately Paella and Colombian Beans and Rice came out on top.
Ready for Round 3? Go Vote!
And that's that for the recap of Round 2 of Rice-tastic Starch Madness. Round 3 begins…right now! Head over to the Serious Eats Instagram page to weigh in on which teams deserve a spot in the Elite Ate!
Round 3 Recap
So…how’s everyone’s bracket holding up? Yeah, tell me about it. Round 3 brought outcomes that have us wondering what in the name of rice is going on.
Nasi Goreng held its own through much of this tournament, but in a classic match-up of fried rice against fried rice, it finally fell short of the win by just 4% against stalwart Shrimp Fried Rice. Once again, Halal Cart Chicken and Rice kicked out another notable candidate, Sushi Rice, with a 63% win. Someone is a bit of an attention hog, don’t ya think?
Crowd favorite Nigerian Jollof Rice finally met its demise in this round. What is it about Jambalaya that captured 66% of your hearts? If I had to venture a guess, it would probably be the meat; I know we’ve got a carnivorous crew over here. Arancini fans, all I have to say to you is…womp womp. Those starchy Italian spheres tried their best, and the vote was close, but they didn’t stand a chance against global ricestar Lamb Biryani.
Another loss for Italians came in the Grain Event region when Katsudon took the crown over Risotto alla Milanese with a 58% lead. I guess you can’t have your risotto and eat it too and you also can’t have cake when you lose (again, I don’t make the rules!). Speaking of cake, our sweet tooths took a hit when the last remaining dessert, Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango, fell off the charts, losing to Bibimbap, a powerhouse with a 66% majority. Bibimbap gets to eat all the cake now, I guess.
Aaand there’s nothing grainy about how the Cereal Winners turned out. Glorious Gyudon pulled a 67% win over Colombian Beans and Rice, which just goes to show how much a bowl of rice with meat is really putting its back into it. Paella is projected to be a winner by none other than ChatGPT (yes, we asked); it's following through after another win, this time over New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice, which only managed to accrue 32%. If Paella takes this whole thing home, maybe we’ll just let AI take over this tournament next year. What could go wrong?
Ready for Round 4? Go Vote!
And that's that for the recap of Round 3 of Rice-tastic Starch Madness. Round 3 begins…right now! Head over to the Serious Eats Instagram page to weigh in on which teams deserve a spot in the Final Forks!
Round 4 Recap
Folks, we’ve made it to the Final Forks. Can you believe?! Did you ever think you’d spend so much time thinking about rice, of all things? With great blog-of-yore power comes great responsibility, and we are so thrilled to wield ours to make...carb brackets.
Onward! Yesterday, we lost an icon known as Shrimp Fried Rice. She went peacefully with 38% of the vote. May she rest easy knowing we’ll continue to include her with our Chinese takeout orders. Her opponent, Halal Cart Chicken and Rice, continues to do the most and is advancing to the next round, thanks to its 62% win.
Lamb Biryani came out as the GOAT of the Rice Capades region (despite, well, the lamb of it all) with 63% percent of the vote. And with that, Jambalaya packed up its bags and was promptly sent home. We’ll never forget all it had to offer, with its triple-threat of chicken, sausage, and shrimp, and we truly send our best.
We got an earful from our dear readers about the matchup between Katsudon and Bibimbap, and to that we say, um, that's on you? Lest we remind you this is a competition for the people by the people, so you might want to start taking that a little more seriously. Despite the cries of unfairness, Bibimbap came out as the chosen one with a 58% win.
And let’s just come right out and say it: Paella is the underdog of these remaining dishes. It beat out Gyudon, a bowl literally piled high with beef by 58%? We didn’t see it coming, but it has our attention now. Or at least it does until Friday when this all culminates in a whole rice-y winner.
Ready for Round 5? Go Vote!
And that's that for the recap of Round 4 of Starch Madness. Round 5 begins…right now! Head over to the Serious Eats Instagram page to weigh in on which teams deserve a spot in the Rice-tastic Starch Madness Chamionship!
Round 5 Recap
The Final Forks! Four rice dishes enter, and only two pass on to the Starch Madness 2023 Rice-tastic Championship.
In this round, we were left with a hair-raising competition between Halal Cart Chicken and Rice and Lamb Biryani. The hours-long standoff resulted in Halal Cart's win, but only by a mere *64* votes. We haven't been this stressed since the great bucatini shortage of 2020.
ChatGPT was wrong about Paella, which maybe is a sign that robots won’t take over the world? Anyway!! The seafood-centric dish gave its all, but ultimately fell short to Bibimbap’s victory. Sure, Paella has a lot to offer, but Bibimbap’s versatility makes it the clear winner here.
With that, we have the finals set: Halal Cart Chicken and Rice versus Bibimbap! Vote now over at the Serious Eats Instagram page to decide which one will be the one in the competition where there can only be one top bowl of rice!
Round 6: And We Have a Winner!
Starch Madness 2023: RICE! wrapped up over the weekend with a result that belongs in the hall of fame of sports tournament finals. Halal Cart Chicken and Rice squared off against Bibimbap, and Halal Cart Chicken and Rice won by a mere 124 (!!!) votes. The least shocking turn of events, we know, but it was nevertheless a thrilling final showdown. The road to victory was honestly pretty smooth for this contender, who’s known as one of the most popular recipes on this little food website of ours. Is she the nepo baby of the rice world? Some might say! Regardless, we can’t deny how good she is. So, without further ado, please join me in congratulating Halal Cart Chicken and Rice, the champion of our Rice-tastic Starch Madness 2023 tournament!
#1 Shrimp Fried Rice#2 Halal Cart Chicken and Rice#3 Sumeshi (Vinegared Sushi Rice)#4 Hainanese Chicken Rice Set#5 Classic Chicken and Rice Soup#6 Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls)#7 Nasi Lemak (Malaysian Coconut Rice)#8 Dirty Rice
#9 Pork Omurice (Japanese Pork Fried Rice Omelette)#10 Shurabet el Eid (Holiday Soup)#11 Dak Juk (Korean Chicken and Rice Porridge)#12 Samgyetang (Korean Rice-Stuffed Chicken Soup)#13 Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)#14 Dawali (Palestinian Stuffed Grape Leaves)#15 Galinhada#16 Fodni Bhaat (Indian Fried Rice)
#1 Lamb Biryani#2 Creole-Style Red Jambalaya#3 Rice Krispie Treats#4 Saffron Arancini With Mozzarella#5 Onigiri#6 Nigerian Jollof Rice#7 Cơm Tấm (Vietnamese Broken Rice)#8 Hoppin' John
#9 Garlic Fried Rice#10 Labaniyeh bil Ruz (Garlicky Yogurt and Rice Porridge)#11 Pomodori al Riso (Roman Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes)#12 Risotto al Salto (Crispy Rice Pancake)#13 North African Tuna and Rice Salad#14 Suman (Filipino Steamed Sticky Rice Cakes)#15 Nigerian Fried Rice#16 Kedgeree (British Curried Rice With Smoked Haddock)
#1 Risotto alla Milanese (Saffron Risotto)#2 Homestyle Bibimbap#3 Vanilla Rice Pudding#4 Tahdig (Persian Crunchy Rice)#5 Katsudon (Japanese Fried Cutlet and Egg Rice Bowl)#6 Mochi#7 Armenian-Style Rice Pilaf#8 Jamaican Peas and Rice
#9 Arroz con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice With Pigeon Peas)#10 Hashweh (Palestinian Spiced Rice and Meat)#11 Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)#12 Tamago Kake Gohan (Japanese-Style Egg Rice)#13 Mansaf (Palestinian Spiced Lamb With Rice)#14 Khao Niao Mamuang (Thai Coconut Sticky Rice With Mango)#15 Qidreh (Palestinian Bone-In Lamb With Spiced Rice)#16 Nigerian Masa (Fermented Rice Cake Balls)
#1 Colombian Beans and Rice#2 Nicaraguan Arroz con Pollo#3 Grilled Paella Mixta (Paella With Chicken and Seafood)#4 Congee (Rice Porridge)#5 Gyudon (Japanese Rice Bowl With Simmered Beef )#6 Oyakodon (Japanese Rice Bowl With Chicken and Egg)#7 New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice#8 Champorado (Filipino Rice Porridge With Chocolate)
#9 Biko (Filipino Sticky Rice Cake)#10 Poha Chivda (Indian Flattened Rice Snack)#11 Ikura Don (Japanese Rice Bowl With Salmon Roe)#12 Bengali Rice Porridge With Lentils and Chicken#13 South Indian Lime Rice#14 Arroz al Horno Valenciano (Spanish Baked Rice)#15 Taiwanese Turkey Rice#16 Tacu Tacu