Diversity of Thai Rice

   The art of eating and the existence of more than 20,000 types of rice have generated much local wisdom, art and culture that are second nature to the Thai people.
Strains of Thai Paddy Rice
Hom Phayom rice/Dok Phayom rice
   “Crouch at the foot of Shorea flower rice” is an expression some people use to vaunt the heady aroma of this variety of white rice native of the South. It adapts easily to the environment and can be planted in rubber plantations, in sandy loam or clay or gravel, and on steep slopes as well, as it grows deep roots. It needs little water and has high yields, its grains ripen rapidly and the plant resists well to disease and insects.
   Its aroma is unique, reminiscent indeed of the Shorea flower, when you take out the lid of the pot while it cooks. But this is only true for the upland variety. If you plant it on at land, its fragrance will be nothing compared to that of Hom Mali rice. Besides, it is only during a single season that it smells so good: if you plant it next season on the same grounds, the fragrance will be gone.
Hom Mali 105/Khao Dok Mali 105 rice
   This is the most famous rice variety of the country, unique for its fragrance and softness when its long, white grains are cooked. It was found originally in Phanat Nikhom District of Chonburi Province in 1950. By 1957, rice varieties collected in the country’s 199 districts were delivered to the Lopburi Rice Research Center, which found that Sample 105 was the best, with slender long grain whose fragrance was strongly reminiscent of the pandanus leaf and whose whiteness was that of jasmine. So Sample 105 was selected as breeder and baptised Khao Khao Dok Mali 105.
   The strain was then distributed in various locations, central and the eastern regions, but the yield came out unsatisfactory. But believe it or not, the best place to grow Hom Mali 105 turned out to be Thung Kula Rong Hai, the parched central plain of the Northeast. The high salinity in the soil instead gives the rice its special fragrance and softness. The name has been registered and there are two designations: Thung Kula Rong Hai Hom Mali Rice and Surin Hom Mali Rice.
Hom Mali Vessantara rice
   The story begins under the house on stilts of one farmer in Yasothon Province who turned the space into a laboratory to develop a strain of rice with high yield. He crossbred Hom Mali 105 with glutinous rice. It took him six years of painstaking and meticulous selection to come up with a standardised strain of even colour, height and yield which he was able to sow in his eld and nally harvest the high yield of fragrant rice he sought to achieve.
   One advantage of mixing white and glutinous species is the at once soft and sticky quality of the cooked rice, close to the texture of Japanese rice, with the addition of the jasmine rice avour. A second advantage is that, as distinct from its parents, the current strain has a hard stalk and its leaves are hairy, which dissuades cattle from eating rice shoots and makes the plant resistant to insects and other pests.
   The farmer who developed the strain gave it the name of Vessantara (one of the Buddha’s names meaning ‘Born in the merchant quarter’) to remind those who grow and those who eat it of the need to share and to give.
Hom Mali Daeng rice (Red Hom Mali rice)
   From the redness caused by mutations of Hom Mali 105 collected in fields by farming teachers of the Khao Khwan Foundation, and with further genetic selection, a new strain of red jasmine rice was achieved. Its redness is unique. Its softness and fragrance are those of jasmine rice, and it is resistant to diseases as well.
   With these qualities, red Hom Mali rice has been distributed widely and is grown in many areas. And then something marvellous happened when a diabetic noticed that, after eating this rice for only one week, the his blood sugar level had dropped so much his doctor was amazed. This led to research in the laboratory, and the answer was that red jasmine rice has a much lower glycaemic index than ordinary rice, meaning that conversion of starch into sugar in the body takes place slowly and this helps keep blood sugar levels low. The strain, on the other hand, is richer in antioxidants than are fruit such as berries.
Hom Nil rice (Sapphire Fragrant Rice)
   Khao Hom Nil is purple-black. It is soft, delicious and stickier than ordinary white rice as it comes from a rice variety from China, which the Chinese used to call “emperor rice” because it was only for the emperor.
   One advantage of this variety of rice is that it has good resistance to disease; another is that it ripens in only 90 days, which allows for an extra early-season crop. Selection has created another variety of sapphire rice which matures in 120 days for planting during the season and results in heavier grains with greater nutritious value, as can be seen from its darker colour.
   The antioxidants anthocyanin and polyphenol are the pigments of the grain, and the darker the grain the higher the content.
   Besides cooking, Khao Hom Nil is also used to make shampoo, as it is said to help hair remain black, prevent premature grey hair and hair loss and even stimulate cells to create more hair follicles.
Pinkaew rice
   Among the local strains of rice, there is one group of rice called Khao Loi ( oating rice). These rice strains feature special ability of extending their nodes above the water level whenever there is ood. These strains are khao pinkaew, khao saibua, khao phuang malai, khao hom cholasit, khao jao loi, and khao niao loi.
   For Pinkaew rice, besides being able to grow up to ve metres in height in order to stay above water level, Pinkaew rice also has the ability to break roots and blossom above ground in the water. It gets erect very fast and has beautiful grains, rm, heavy and shiny, which do not bend and are not chalky. It was the species that was awarded the rst prize in rice contest in Regina, SK, Canada in 1933, or during the reign of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII).
Jek Choei rice of Sao Hai
   Local rice grown in Sao Hai District of Saraburi Province has been famous since the early days of Rattanakosin period for its quality. Its pretty grains once cooked are not soft or mushy and do not collapse when ladled with curry. They are savoury with soup and, most important, do not spoil fast. They can be turned into noodles and various desserts.
   The story is that this variety of rice was introduced by a Chinese merchant called Jek Choei (Choei the Chinaman) and his name was given to his grain as well. But before Sao Hai Jek Choei rice became famous as it is now, there was a period when the local people stopped growing it due to low productivity with only one crop a year. Proper selection of species was needed, and this was when the Pathum Thani Rice Research Centre intervened. Selective breeding resulted in a pure strain of quality which gave Jek Choei rice its fame and got itself geographically indicated (GI) as appellation d’origine contrôlée or controlled designation of origin.
Sang Yod rice
   The fragrant, soft, sticky, and chewy at the same time, almost like glutinous rice, Sand Yod rice has less amylose than ordinary white rice. It is so good that, the story has it, sons want further helpings so much their mothers must order them to stop asking (sang yut) – and with a southern accent it became sang yod.
   The nationwide popularity of Sang Yod rice began at Queen Sirikit’s genetic model farm in Phattalung. After three generations of the species had been bred, Her Majesty visited the farm, tasted the rice and declared it “fine tasting and nourishing”. Yearly presents of this variety of rice were made to the Palace henceforth and the word in the Palace was that the queen was partial to that strain. Research found that it was rich in vitamin E, iron, phosphorus, proteins, fibres and antioxidants.
   Sang Yod rice has been certified by the Department of Intellectual Property with geographical indication cred and the name Phatthalung Sang Yod rice.
Leb Nok rice
   This traditional southern variety of Khao Leb Nok (Bird’s Claw Rice) is prevalent in Kong Ra District of Phatthalung Province. It is friable, soft but not mushy, and it tastes good, so it is popular with the locals who like to eat it with tamarind soup, sh kidney soup or spicy parboiled vegetables.The ancients believed that eating this kind of rice made them strong. Current research backs them up: this variety is nutritious and rich in gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). It has been replanted on Doi Intanon (using the hole in the soil method used for upland glutinous rice) and renamed Sgaw Karen Bird’s Claw Rice.
Nuai Khuea rice
   Talking about grain, people generally think of slender, tapering white grain but this species has the roundness of an eggplant or a tomato, hence its name. Although it is smaller than most white rice grains, its nutritious value is not inferior as it is rich in vitamin E and iron. Its content in vitamin E is 22 to 26 times that of ordinary white rice, and three times higher in iron. This savoury and soft rice is a native of the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, but these days it is planted in the Northeast as well.
Alhamdulillah or Khao Satun rice
   Alhamdulillah rice or Alham rice in short is the local strain of rice planted in the south of Thailand, notably in Satun town’s tambon Ketri. Its popularity expanded somehow into Phatthalung province by the name of Khao Satun rice.
   The special character of Alhamdulillah rice is its resistance to strong wind, local pests, and acidity in southern soil, produces sweetish taste and high in nutrients.
   At present, most Alhamdulillah rice is produced mainly for domestic consumption and for sales in Malaysia. Most importantly, the name of the rice means “Thank God”.
Pathiu yellow rice
   This variety is native to Pathiu District in Chumphon Province, and is said to be more than 200 years old. It is the most popular among Chumphon farmers as it is easy to plant even in brackish or saline soils close to the sea, has high yields with a great number of grains per ear, and is resistant to disease and insects.
   Pathiu yellow rice turns puffy as it cooks and, once cooked, is quite firm and crumbly. It is suited to accompanying soups and liquid curries, as it won’t turn mushy or lumpy. It is also suitable for making noodles, given its rm and chewy structure.
Thabthim Chumphae Rice (Chumphae Ruby Rice)
   Sang Yod rice from the South crossed with fragrant Hom Mali rice from the Northeast has produced a new, colourful species with a dark skin and a short stalk. It is sturdy, resilient, withstands wind well and can be planted in all regions and grown throughout the year.
   The membrane enveloping the grain is reddish like Sang Yot rice and once cooked, the rice turns a transparent red like ruby (Thabthim). The species was achieved by the Chumphae research centre in Khon Kaen Province, who wanted a rice that would not need chemical fertilisers or pesticides.
   Khao Thabthim Chumphae is notorious for its taste. It has a low amylose content. Once cooked, it is chewy and is used to make sushi as delicious as the Japanese version. The rice water also tastes good and makes for palatable ice cream. Besides, it has a high nutritional value and high doses of antioxidants, protein, iron and phosphorous.
   This rice was selected for the table of HRH Princess Sirindhorn when she presided over the opening ceremony on the 2015 National Day of Rice and Farmers.
Riceberry rice
   This is paddy derived from the hybridisation of sapphire jasmine rice and jasmine rice 105 by the Rice Science Center & Rice Gene Discovery Unit of Nakhon Pathom Province, through the cooperation of the National Research Council and Kasetsart University. The grain is dark purple, long and round and, when cooked, soft and fragrant. It needs special attention, has a good yield when grown organic, and its pigmentation requires cold weather. It is yet another variety with high nutritional value, rich in antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin E, tannin, as well as zinc and folic acid. Its low to moderate glycaemic index means that its starch turns to sugar slowly and thus is suitable for people suffering from diabetes and obesity.
Sin Lek rice (Iron-rich rice)
   This variety is derived from the crossing of Hom Mali rice with Hom Mali rice 105 by Kasetsart’s Rice Science Centre at Kamphaeng Saen, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Research Council. The differences between Sin Lek rice and riceberry are that the former has white grains which once cooked are fragrant, soft and sweet tasting, and that it features a high iron content. It was found that encouraging children with persistent de ciencies in iron to eat Sin Lek rice helped increase the haemoglobin level in their red blood cells. Furthermore, Sin Lek rice has a low glycaemic index, which means that during digestion starch turns into sugar slowly, so it is recommendedfor people suffering from diabetes.
Lueang Soi Thong rice (golden necklace yellow rice)
   One advantage of having numerous indigenous varieties of rice is that there is a choice of strains with nutrient contents and nutritious value that differ. Eating various qualities of rice makes good prophylactic sense as it provides us with a variety of nutrients.
   Each rice strain has its strong point, and presence of folic acid is the strong point of golden necklace yellow rice – or yellow rice for short – with 116.47 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams of grain, whereas most rice varieties have no more than 50 micrograms. This is important for pregnant women, as folic acid is essential for the synthesis and repair of DNA and for the prevention of cleft lip and cleft palate in children. It also helps prevent dementia in old people.
   A drawback of the strain is that its grain is rather hard, but this can be solved by boiling it to gruel consistency or by turning it into brown rice water for drinking.
   The origin of the strain is not known with certainty, because it was mixed with plots of red fragrant jasmine rice before being developed by a group of conservationists of indigenous rice varieties in Yasothon Province.