Rice cake is a food which appears in many cultures. In Asian cultures rice cake can be sweet or savory. Where there is rice, there is a motive to use it to create interesting ways to enjoy. Rice cake could be described as a vehicle to bring other tastes to the palate.
This creativity is what the USA has brought to the table, so to speak. We have created an item which doesn't taste like rice and damn sure doesn't taste like cake. It is one of the first camoflaged foods, disguised by its taste, (or lack thereof), and appearance to be sold in grocery stores instead of your local home building supply along with sheet and block styrofoam as well as other insulation materials.
Quaker Oats, one of the most notorious purveyors of these hockey pucks, tells us on their website the following:
Quaker Rice Cakes satisfy your craving for a big crunch, and because they're made with whole grain brown rice, they satisfy your need to snack smart.
Yeah, right. I can satisfy my need for a big crunch by gnawing on an old bone or something else which is more flavorful than a rice cake.
I understand that rice cakes are a favorite among the millions who want or need to watch their diet. I understand the logic, I suppose. In my mind I can hear the following conversation: "Hmmm, I'm a wee bit munchy, not really hungry but I want a little something to tide me over until my celery sticks at dinner. Oh, I have some rice cakes! Now, if I only had about 3 gallons of diet beverage to wash them down, I'd be set!"
When confronted with a rice cake, hunger seems like an extremely viable alternative.
The good people at Quaker Oats, though they dress funny (have you ever noticed the Quaker Oats guy looks a lot like Don Johnson?), are no fools. They have a plethora of different flavors to make their product more palatable. My God, I've finally gotten the chance to use the word 'plethora' in a sentence! They are about 10 different flavors they offer to help you on your way to rail thinness.
You may opt to add your own flavor enhancers to your cache of rice cakes. You can honor your Fiji heritage by putting fish paste on one. If you were a US Marine, maybe you could spread some SOS on a rice cake. If you were Mike Huckabee, you could put a squirrel you had sauteed in a popcorn popper on a rice cake. Sorry, a moment of inside political humor. For our Euro friends, I suggest Nutella, that flavor sensation we Amerikaners haven't discovered yet. Rest assured, when we do discover it, that snappy old gent in the funny hat will start putting it on rice cakes and exporting them around the planet.
In Japan they enjoy a version of rice cake called Mochi, which is a sticky rice cake. They also have rice cake soup, called zoni, which is traditionally eaten for Japanese New Year. Just reading about it makes me want to party like it's 1999. Suffice it to say that the Japanese have a variety of ways in which to prepare and eat rice cake.
Many other nations have brought their tastes to bear on the rice cake. Everywhere that rice is grown or eaten, there seems to be a version of rice cake. What Americans call rice cake would bear small resemblance to those in other lands.