Rice Stories

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It was a honor to be a part of the latest issue "Rice" @peddlerjournal. Thank you so much for  sharing my rice stories and my grandma's stories. It deeply moves our hearts, especially the chapter "Grandma's wisdom" which is beautifully described and illustrated. My grandma was holding the journal and saying "It is wonderful to have a written record because my memories are not so good any more" She was proud what we have done together and I am so happy of who inspired me to pursue my small project. Please check Peddler Journal and get inspired all the beautiful stories.

Book Review: Hatsume Sato

Hatsume Sato was well-known for helping people heal through her culinary skills. At her forest retreat, “Ischia of the Forest " in northern Japan, she taught many how to make a delicious Omusubi (Japanese: Rice Ball) by allowing the rice to "breath.” Many people believed her Omusubi guided them to a better life. A believer in food consciousness, she died at the age of 94 in February 2016.

This small pocket size book is narrated gently in her voice with a powerful and inspiring message. The food for nourishing life is prepared in a very simple and peaceful way.  She uses only the most fresh, natural and seasonal ingredients in her cooking. She believed that understanding all ingredients and their purpose brings them to life, and allows us to experience the true natural flavor of their taste.

Rice flour vs Sweet Rice flour

Rice flour is ground from long- or medium-grain rice, the rice that we usually eat. It has some thickening properties and it is a good gluten free substitute for wheat flour in baking. (100g / 359 kcal)

Sweet rice flour is ground from a high-starch, short-grain rice, or "sticky rice (mochiko),” to use as an effective thickener for sauces or binder for mochi. Sweet rice flour is also used for confections, noodles and sauces in many Asian countries.  (100g / 360 kcal)

Rice is transparent whereas glutinous, or sweet rice is opaque. Rice starch is mainly composed of amylose and amylopectin. Sweet rice is composed of nearly pure amylopectin. This characteristic makes it very viscous and useful as a superior thickening agent by inhibiting liquid separation.

A letter from Thomas Jefferson

From Thomas Jefferson to William Drayton, 30 July 1787

Paris:
"Having observed that the consumption of rice in this country, and particularly in this Capital was very great, I thought it my duty to inform myself from what markets they draw their supplies, in what proportion from ours, and whether it might not be practicable to increase that proportion. This city being little concerned in foreign commerce, it is difficult to obtain information on particular branches of it in the detail. I addressed myself to the retailers of rice, and from them received a mixture of truth and error, which I was unable to sift apart in the first moment. Continuing however my enquiries, they produced at length this result; that the dealers here were in the habit of selling two qualities of rice, that of Carolina, with which they were supplied chiefly from England, and that of Piedmont; that the Carolina rice was long, slender, white and transparent, answers well when prepared with milk, sugar &c. but not so well when prepared au gras; that that of Piedmont was shorter, thicker, and less white, but that it preserved it’s form better when dressed au gras, was better tasted, and therefore preferred by good judges for those purposes; that the consumption of rice in this form was much the most considerable, but that the superior beauty of the Carolina rice, seducing the eye of those purchasers who are attached to appearances, the demand for it was upon the whole as great as for that of Piedmont."

Rice Straw and Soybeans

Meju  (fermented soybeans)  is the key ingredient in making soy sauce

Meju (fermented soybeans) is the key ingredient in making soy sauce

In Korean culture, we eat fermented soybean products every day, such as soy sauce, soybean paste (Doenjang),and red pepper paste (Gochujang).  An important part of making these fermented soybeans is the rice straw. My grandmother always says, “Save the rice straw, it is useful for something.”

Bricks of dried fermented soybeans are tied in rice straw and hung where there is good air circulation. The rice straw has Bacillus subtilis, a good bacteria, which promotes the fermentation process.  Over time the soybeans absorb the bacteria in the rice straw.  The bacteria is important because it creates a sticky substance which gives the soybeans their unique aroma and taste.

In Korean these fermented soybeans are called Meju.  Meju is the key ingredient in making soy sauce. 

A soybean used in Japanese cooking called Natto is also wrapped in rice straw. It becomes very sticky and pungent in its fermented form. Just like the Meju, Nattō needs the correct temperature, humidity and circulation to be its best.

In the Edo Period (1615-1868), there were " Nattō vendors" who walked around town selling their fermented soybeans during the fall and winter months when the bacterium grew readily. Today, Japanese consumers have access to Nattō year round. Nattō is a traditional food eaten at Japanese breakfast tables together with miso soup, fish, and rice.

Long, Medium and Short

There are 3 basic sizes of rice, long-grain, medium and short-grain. The size of the rice determines the cooking texture and flavor. Each rice can be used for specific dishes and recipes. 

Long-grain rice is fluffy when cooked, so it tends to separate. The grains have a firm, dry texture, and are best for side dishes, pilafs, stir-fry and salads.  Long-grain rice is also slim and lengthy, nearly four to five times longer than it is wide. This type of rice includes American long-grain white and brown rice, Basmati rice, and Jasmine rice.

Medium-grain rice is tender, moist, and stickier than long-grain rice when cooked. Shorter and wider than its long-grain counterpart, medium-grain rice is about two to three times longer than it is wide. Arborio and Valencia are medium-grain varieties used in Italian risotto. The Spanish varieties of  Arroz Negroni and Bomba rice are used in paella.

Short-grain rice is the most sticky and soft when cooked. This fat, and round  grain has an extra starch which gives it its sticky and clumpy texture. American short-grain brown rice and sushi rice are common varieties of short-grain rice.  Short-grain rice is perfect for sushi and pudding.

The Rice Festival in Italy

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Fiera del riso (Rice Fair) is the second biggest festival in Europe after the October Fest. This is the 50th anniversary which has been growing the tremendous numbers of visitors each year. It brought a half million visitors during the festival 2015. Two indoors spaces featuring different local restaurateurs hold over 12,000 visitors who choose between many different risottos, rice deserts, rice pizzas and drinks. The outdoor area was full of vendors from all across Italy. Culinary competitions encourage farms, restaurants and public in daily programs. 
A new additional venue in this year is Rice exhibition "Oryza" which curated by Davide Mantovani. It was an incredible display educating people about rice in its cultivation, culture and history.  This is great a showcase to share rice knowledge which should be continued and treasured. Great job Davide and his friends!

Exhibition Curator Davide Mantovani

Exhibition Curator Davide Mantovani

Fun Fact:
Melotti Farm/restaurant usually serves 65,000 risotto bowls during the festival. Melotti
Risotteria restaurant won the competition making the traditional local risotto.