The Blessing on Rice Cakes. –
It is well known that the blessing on rice, despite it not being one of the five grains, is mezonot (with the short boray nefashot after-blessing). The Mishna Brurah (208,7 (28)) quotes the Rosh who explains that this is because rice has satiating qualities much like the five grains. The question we will address is what bracha should be said over rice cakes (those flat round hard cracker-like things made of puffed rice stuck together, which have an unusually similar taste to that of Styrofoam cups).
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Haim 208,7) writes that someone who eats raw rice, or whole roasted or baked grains of rice, says ha'adamah, but if the rice was boiled, or made into rice flour then cooked, its bracha is mezonot. The truth is that there is much discussion as to the correct blessing for boiled rice, because the blessing mezonot really only applies to grains that have been boiled into a porridge, oatmeal-type consistency where the grains break-up and/or stick together, but when the grains are still completely whole and separate, they retain their ha'adamah status. Nonetheless, the conclusion of the Mishna Brurah (and standard practice) is that because boiled rice grains are usually eaten like that, and also because all our rice (even whole grain rice) is cooked after being removed from its outer husk, it is considered as having broken up to some extent, and is not considered as a complete grain – therefore the bracha is mezonot.
Rice cakes are made from rice grains that have been blown up by hot air under pressure, to make them softer and larger, and stick together. What is their bracha?
Some hold that because the grains were not boiled they cannot be called a "tavshil" (porridge or oatmeal-type gruel); rather they retain the status of raw or roasted grains which we explained are ha'adamah. On the other hand perhaps because in the end of the day the grains do stick together and form the rice cake, just as boiled porridge and oatmeal-type grains do, the fact that this comes about through hot air and not boiling water is immaterial. In other words, is it the process that defines mezonot, or the result?
On the level of the bottom line halacha – some say mezonot (Rav Elyashiv zt"l), and some say ha'adamah (Rav S.Z. Aurbach zt"l), and some hold that because of the doubt it is better to say ha'adamah which would probably cover both possibilities in any case (see Zot HaBracha, chapter 12). And just to make sure we cover all options, we should add that Rav Fischer zt"l held to say shehakol over rice cakes because the rice has changed form and is not recognizable any more – but this opinion is not widely accepted.
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