A lot of dishes include a small amount of meat or fish or something else with a strong flavor, and then a large portion of rice or mashed potatoes or spaghetti, or something else that is comparatively flavorless. What's the word for that latter part?

Example usage:

"The rice on my plate is the _____ for my meat"
"Here are some meat balls, with rice as their ______"

I'm not sure if English has a word for this. In Russian, there's the word "гарнир" ("garnir"), but the English word that sounds like it, "garnish", seems like a false cognate, because it means specifically a decorative extra part of a dish.

  • 4
    main dish accompanied by side dishes
    – NVZ
    Jun 3, 2016 at 5:12
  • 1
    "Side dish" is the best word I've ever found for "garnir". Still, I feel like "garnir" implies that it has to be right there next to the main dish, absorbing and diluting it, while "side dish" doesn't have that requirement - it could be literally in a separate plate or bowl on the side.
    – snetch
    Jun 3, 2016 at 5:20
  • 1
    I think 'complement' is usually the word that would suit your examples.
    – JEL
    Jun 3, 2016 at 7:29

4 Answers 4


Potatoes, rice and pasta are often called starchy foods.

Try to include them at every meal by basing your meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, breads, pasta, rice, noodles or cereals (more examples below).

British Nutrition Foundation

The rice /potatoes / pasta / dumplings that accompany the meat, are either an ingredient of the main dish, or an important accompaniment. The Milanese dish osso buco is often served with saffron risotto.

A 1971 newspaper cooking article:

  • chicken and rice make a great duo for entertaining, ... served with a wine flavored cream sauce and the rice accompaniment ....

Modifying the OP's examples one could say

accompany (Oxford Dictionaries)
2.1 Provide a complement or addition to

Example: The generous portion of shrimp was covered in a delicious spicy brown sauce and accompanied by a plain white bun.


I don't know if this can be the secondary part.

Staple foodBusiness Dictionary

That is regularly consumed in a community or society and from which people obtain most or significant proportion of their calorie requirements.

"Rice is a staple food in many parts of the world. It is consumed as the main source of calories by millions of people every day."

  • I'm looking for a word to use in this sort of context: "The rice on my plate is the <blank> for my meat", or "here are some meat balls, with rice as their <blank>". I don't think "staple" fits that.
    – snetch
    Jun 3, 2016 at 5:07

A bed of rice is what would soak up the sauce. Traditionally, garnishes cleanse the palette in preparation for dessert, and I think that is being confused with soak up the sauce, by either you or Google translate.

NVZ had it with, "main dish accompanied by side dishes":

"The rice on my plate is the side dish for my meat."
"Here are some meat balls, with rice as their side."

Unless you are talking about the supposedly tasteless and seemingly useless garnish –them's fightin' words– I like parsley.

  • The "soak up the sauces" was my interpretation on the OP's "..secondary dish that comes in a greater amount and dilutes/absorbs the strong flavor...." The problem with side dish is that it doesn't necessarily share the same plate as the main dish, and that is what the OP is specifically asking about. A salad is a side dish but it is served on a separate plate in restaurants.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 4, 2016 at 14:18
  • @Mari-LouA - A side dish doesn't necessarily share the same plate as the main dish, but a bed of or whatever it's served over does. Using this method is most likely with the intention of flavoring your side with the sauce.
    – Mazura
    Jun 4, 2016 at 15:04
  • Rarely heard of a bed of pasta, but noodles as an accompaniment, works pretty well.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 4, 2016 at 15:27

The original trencher was stale bread used as a plate, to collect sauce from the entree though it has evolved to be a shallow wooden bowl. Today, you can still order soup in bread bowls from midrange national branded chain restaurants.

Bread can also be used as a sop and other starches put on a plate would similarly sop up the sauce.

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