I came across this sentence in an English book:

A fried rice is 2,500 dong.

I know that rice is a mass noun so it cannot be counted, and if ‘fried rice’ refers to the name of a dish, it is correct to say ‘I’d like two fried rice’ when you are in a restaurant. However, in this case, if fried rice refers to the name, is fried rice better than a fried rice?


"A fried rice" is not grammatically correct, but in the context of your example, it's actually short for the longer expression "an order of fried rice". It's kind of a standard expression when referring to food on a menu. It means one of that item:

Waiter: What'll it be?
Customer: We'll have a bun cha, a chicken pho, and two orders of spring rolls. Oh, and a coffee for me and an ice tea for my friend, please?

It's also common to use the instead of a:

Friend: Actually I changed my mind I don't want the pho. I'd rather have the clay pot fish, please.

along with many other variations.

  • 1
    Just for completeness, Br Eng would probably use "a portion of rice" rather than "an order of rice" as the full expression. The restaurant staff might say order but the customer would say portion. – Tetsujin Jul 20 '18 at 5:58
  • Can I consider that ‘a fried rice’ is common in speaking but not in writing? The sentence I mentioned is not in a dialogue, it is in a list giving students information to practice the question ‘how much is...?’. Is it not accurate to use it in this case? – Thanhgiang Jul 20 '18 at 6:04
  • IMO, a fried rice sounds really awkward. I eat a lot of Chinese food and I don't think I've ever heard a native speaker say it. Might just be a British English thing though. – Omegastick Jul 20 '18 at 7:21
  • @Thanhgiang It sounds fine to me in something like a guide book and other texts that are often written using informal language, e.g. "In a Singapore hotel restaurant a fried rice is around 10 dollars, but if you get out and find a food court, you'll pay half that." I would teach it to English students, as it's quite natural when ordering, "Could I have a fried rice and a coke, please?" – Andrew Jul 20 '18 at 15:06
  • @Omegastick It might be American dialect, but I think if you lived around here you'd quickly get used to it. Anyway, there are so many small differences between UK and US English that me saying this probably wouldn't be the first thing that would give away to a UK waitress that I'm a Yank :) – Andrew Jul 20 '18 at 15:10

A bowl of fried rice, two bowls of fried rice, and just fried rice are all correct. Two fried rice, while not grammatical AFAIK, is very commonly used when ordering food in a restaurant (especially when buying takeout, and the food isn't served in a bowl).

I'd stay away from a fried rice.

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