When we experience thick haze, we are reminded of how important clean air is. Rice is equally as important, and equally taken for granted.
Sometimes we must pause to reflect on the people who toil to ensure that we have the luxury to take rice for granted. My trip to Sisaket Province in north-eastern Thailand gave me that opportunity.
Mr Susaporn, aged 43, is a third generation rice farmer in this area, and has been working with his grandfather in the fields since he was a child. He specialises in growing Hom Mali rice which will most likely find its way into a bag of Royal Umbrella Jasmine Rice.
No Jasmine in Jasmine Rice
Jasmine Rice has nothing to do with Jasmine flowers. Thai Hom Mali is not from the flower. It wasn’t scented with Jasmine. And it’s not mixed with Jasmine in anyway.
The “Jasmine” name erroneously stuck because the rice grains of Thai Hom Mali were pearly white like Jasmine flowers. And the great scent we enjoy, when we lift a bowl of Jasmine rice to our nose, is actually a pandan scent!
Not All Jasmine Rice Is Created Equal
Jasmine rice is grown all around the world. With one major difference, they are from different strains designed to grow in different climates and rainfall levels resulting in differing tastes. Texas and Florida in the United States, for example, also produces Jasmine rice. But they are different is shape, size, fluffiness and taste from Thai Jasmine.
Even across Thailand, the cultivated Hom Mali, or Jasmine rice, is not the same. The effects of local soil, weather, quality of water, and rainfall play a part in the quality of the rice. Apparently, only the north-eastern region of Thailand produces Hom Mali rice prized by Hong Kong, China and Singapore markets for its fragrance, fluffiness, and taste!
Making Perfection Look Natural
Open a bag of Royal Umbrella premium Thai Hom Mali and examine it. The grains are uniformly pearly white, the grains are virtually identical in length and width, there are no blemishes on the grains, and broken rice is practically no existent.
This doesn’t happen naturally. Only painstaking quality control delivers consistent, quality rice. And only with state-of-the-art equipment can it be delivered at the rate of millions of tonnes per year!
Rice from the Source
In an industrial estate in Ayutthaya, Thailand, the Royal Umbrella factory, owned Khao C.P. Co Ltd, is unlike all the others surrounding it. It is new, shiny, and futuristic looking.
3.6 million tonnes of rice each year from all over Thailand get milled, examined, sorted, bagged, and shipped from here. By contrast, Singapore consumes only about the 250,000 metric tonnes of rice per year!
High Tech Surprise
I had envisioned dusty, dark, warehouses attended by an army of bare-chested Thais with rolled pants and flip-flops carrying burlap sacks of rice on their shoulders to waiting trucks. Was I wrong!
This place was state-of-the-art! From the rice silos all the way to the bagging, the process is highly automated. In a building the size of Vivocity, the rice would start from the top floor and work its way down, getting processed on every floor it descended! The environment was so clean, visitors needed to be covered and masked from head-to-toe just like in semiconductor fabrications plants.
Every Grain Inspected
The most impressive part of the process is the grain inspectors. The steady stream of rice passes through banks of scanners which scans each grain of rice for blemishes and impurities in real-time. When an “imperfect” grain is detected, a puff of air removes it from the stream!
Even though this factory produces rice in multiples of what Singapore needs per year, it only required 250 workers to ensure we get our quality Royal Umbrella Thai Hom Mali rice in our stores anytime.
Remember that the next time you enjoy the wonderful scent from a steaming bowl of Hom Mali rice at home!
By Frank Young
Thanks to Topseller and CP Intertrade for making the Royal Umbrella factory visit possible.