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Potatoes, pasta and boiled jasmin rice are all starch and do not taste much by themselves. However I would not serve tomato sauce nor olives to the rice. On the other hand I would not serve potatoes or pasta with soya sauce.

Why is that?

Also oven roasted potatoes may be good with ketchup and even mustard. So oven roasting "transforms" the starch in the poatoes somehow.

Likewise frying the rice (pilaf) make it "fattier"/"heavier" than boiled rice and the range of what you can add to the rice increases. In this case fat is added but I think it is the "roasting" that is the main thing.

So to me it seems that there is some property of the starch. For lack of better words I will call this roastedness.

Roastedness(potatoes) > Roastedness(pasta) > Roastedness(rice).

Oven roasting or frying increases roastedness for all.

What is this property I call roastedness?

May pH have something to do with this? Tomatoes are acid. Rice is slightly acid. Potatoes are slightly acid except for the skin which is alkaline. On total potatoes are therefore slightly alkaline? Soya is alkaline. Oven roasting or frying potatoes produces acrylamide which is alkaline? Combining alkaline (bitter) and acid (sour) taste good.

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Almost all foods, with rare exceptions like egg whites and sodium bicarbonate used for leavening, are acidic. –  SAJ14SAJ Aug 8 '13 at 12:51
    
There is no property called "roastedness". It is true that when you roast potatoes, you get a roasted taste which is very unlike cooked starch taste (look up Maillard). But if you cook potatoes in water, you get nothing of this taste. And besides, this has nothing to do with the combination question, which is really cultural. –  rumtscho Aug 8 '13 at 14:07
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Also, the range of what you can add to pilaf rice is not increased. I cannot think of a food (except for a second starch, but this is a position many people disagree with, including most of my own family) which will taste bad with boiled rice, and the same holds for pilaf rice. –  rumtscho Aug 8 '13 at 14:11
    
I simmer potatoes with soy sauce and butter regularly (yum), and there are plenty of cultures for which tomato and rice is not unheard of (American Mexican food has "Spanish rice", Japanese "omu-rice", for example). –  JasonTrue Aug 8 '13 at 21:21
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Because you are from a specific country with his own culture.

It uis quite normal for example in Italy to have a Risotto with tomato sauce, olives and tuna maybe (and even capers). It is also quite normal to have noodles (some of which which are exaclty the same type of weath as pasta) with soy sauce, in a soup or in a stir fry.

The properties of the roasting that you are talking about are not related to fat (not directly). It may seems that the reason is the fat, but roasting involves fat and salt and maybe spices that give more taste, therefore making it more sutable to mix with other ingredients as the taste will not be lost. You wouldnøt eat boiled potatoes with mustard because they will taste mostly of mustard, but with a roast you'll get a better balace of flavours. But if in your culture that is an acceptable taste it will still be used.

So the final answer is definetely cultur based

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Cultural bias may be part of the explanation but not all. You mention risotto. From my own experience I know that preparing the rice a la pilaf makes it "fattier" and therefore better suited for tomato sauce. Likewise oven roasted potatoes goes better with ketchup than boiled potatoes. So I think there is something with "fatty" that is the main point here. Potatoes are the most "fatty" followed by pasta and then rice. –  Andy Aug 8 '13 at 8:14
    
As an extreme example: would you serve mustard to plain boiled jasmin rice? But oven roasted potatoes and mustard is ok. –  Andy Aug 8 '13 at 9:26
    
@Andy, in Spain arroz a la cubana is boiled rice with tomato sauce alongside fried egg and banana. Cultural bias seems to stand up as the main answer. –  Peter Taylor Aug 8 '13 at 10:29
    
I think the mustard issue has more to do with the mustard itself than with the potatoes or rice. Mustard is spice and therefore not suitable for a bland taste food like boiled rice, but better for roasted potatoes. It may seems that the reason is the fat, but roasting involves fat and salt that give more taste. –  Maurizio In denmark Aug 8 '13 at 10:44
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I am also completely behind the cultural hypothesis. Nothing of the examples listed here strikes me as an especially good or especially bad combination. –  rumtscho Aug 8 '13 at 14:10
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I agree with everyone else that this is primarily subjective and cultural. Beyond that, the main factor is probably not flavor, but texture! It's easy to overlook, but we often have preferences (whether objective or subjective) for interactions of textures. The difference in texture between rice, pasta, and potatoes is much, much larger than the difference between their flavors.

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Good point. But it seems tricky to find the logic behind our preferences for texture. –  Andy Aug 8 '13 at 15:48
    
@Andy As I said, some of it is subjective as well. The point is that the question and other answer focus generally on flavor, and that may not always be what you're actually responding to. But there are objective parts, too. Variations in surface area and so on control how easy it is to coat things and deliver flavor. Thick sauces will tend to overwhelm little grains of rice but work great for bigger pieces of potato. –  Jefromi Aug 8 '13 at 17:03
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