A journey that by chance led to rice: that was the beginning of Lotao. There are 120,000 rice varieties in the world, but except for a few basmatis and wild rice most of what was on the market were the usual long and short-grain types. And then there was the sad boil-in-bag rice brought onto the market by the food industry.
In Asia, Lotao became acquainted with this wonderful grain in all its varied guises—a foodstuff that can be used in many different ways, the epitome of the mother-nurturer, and symbol in Asian myth and legend.
Rice cultivation goes back 10,000 years. Rice is valuable as a source of energy, it is balanced and has a purifying effect. It is considered proven that rice is beneficial not only for the body but for the spirit too.
Lotao tracks down unusual rice varieties on local markets, street kitchens, and from farmers themselves. And tales invariably surround each rice discovery.
The rice plant is a one-year grass. It must be sown anew every year and needs moist, warm conditions.
Individual stalks of the grass can achieve a height of 160 centimeters. On these grow 10 to 20 panicles that in turn may bear as many as 100 small, single-flower spikelets, on which the rice kernels are found. A single panicle can yield up to 3,000 rice kernels. Some rice kernels are almost transparent while others are white. Still others are colored—yellow, pink, violet, or black. The terms ‘short grain’, ‘medium grain’ and ‘long grain’ denote rice kernel groups.
Today 80% of rice is grown in wetlands, because cultivation in dry environments produces significantly smaller crops.
For the water (about 15 cm deep) to spread uniformly over the fields, these have to be even. This led to the construction of rice terraces.
After harvesting the rice (called ‘paddy’ in its unprocessed form) is milled. Valuable minerals and vitamins are lost in this process.
The healthier alternative to milling is parboiling. The rice is first soaked or steamed and then dried. The nutrients in the outer layers of the rice kernel move to the interior and are not lost as in milling.
Rice oil, which is popular in Japan and Thailand, is made from the rice kernel. Soaps and creams are also manufactured from rice.
The rice plant can be processed to make paper, from which lampshades are fashioned. Rice straw is used to make shoes.
“If you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk.
If you want to be happy for three days, marry.
If you want to be happy your whole life, eat rice every day”.