Our host then presented us with a white porcelain serving dish, lifted the lid with a flourish, and in a hushed tone said, “Here is your steamed white rice.” The Vietnamese are very proud of their rice.
It all begins here, in the rice paddies. This particular field belongs to several families, each of whom grows a different variety of rice. They can distinguish their plots by the slightly varying shades of green.
These rice stalks are about 2 months old, too young for harvest. If you squeeze the kernel, it releases a starchy milk because the endosperm has not hardened within the husk.
Once the rice is ready, the farmers harvest by hand, dragging nets across the fields to collect the stalks. They keep about half of the rice for food, drying the kernels in the sun. The rice must be dried within 3-4 days, otherwise the germ will sprout and it is no longer suitable for storage.
The rest of the rice is loaded onto small barges to sell at the local markets.
In the rice stalls, each bowl features a different variety of local rice.
The rice straw is also harvested, dried, and loaded onto barges to be sold at the wholesale markets.
The straw is used for mats, fuel, and as compost for the mushroom farms.
The larger rice farms bring their harvest to the local processing plant.
The factories use an auger to lift the rice out of the barges.
Inside, they dry and polish the rice. The rice husks are saved to fuel the kilns, which are then used to dry more rice and to make bricks.
The factories use a conveyer belt to load the de-husked rice onto larger barges to carry upriver.
And some rice gets spilled in the process.
As the rice harvests are collected and aggregated, the barges get bigger, eventually delivering rice around the globe.
So, what is the story of rice? Yellow rice is taken to a factory, made into white rice, boiled for 30 minutes and steamed. This is what you had for lunch. And I’ll never look at it the same way again.