21 June 2018
Paula Wong and the author sow some seeds in a ricefield in Fanling. Photo: HKEJ
Paula Wong and the author sow some seeds in a ricefield in Fanling. Photo: HKEJ

Rice grains that are precious and rare

Over the past six months, I have been fortunate in being able to try out some quality rice grains.

First, it was the Qing Ling Zhi brand of premium grade Thai jasmine rice, which is the key component in sorrowful rice (黯然銷魂飯), a dish offered by the Gloucester Luk Kwok Hotel.

Chan Chung-fan, the hotel’s boss, gave me a small pack of the grains. I was told it was 100 percent premium grade rice.

I found it goes really well with siu mei (Cantonese roasted meats). It is also good for cooking claypot rice.

However, it is not quite suitable for making a silky smooth or soft congee, and it is not sticky enough for Japanese omusubi (rice balls, also known as onigiri).

Then, not long ago, I had a meeting with Anthony Lam Sai-ho, the managing director and executive director of Golden Resources Development International Ltd. (00677.HK), a major rice importer, wholesaler and distributor in Hong Kong.

Lam, knowing that I am fond of Australian rice, sent me two different bags of Kangaroo Brand rice — premium jasmine rice and a type of grain with a low glycemic index (GI).

The premium jasmine rice is said to be 100 percent from Australia with no additives or added preservatives.

I think it could win the hearts of customers, even in a market that Thai and Vietnamese grains have long dominated.

Meanwhile, the texture of the low-GI rice is rather loose, regardless of how much water I cook it with.

But it is good for people concerned about their blood sugar levels, who might feel slightly more relieved even if they take an extra half bowl of rice.

Then, unexpectedly, I was invited by Hong Kong Cable Television to produce an exclusive report on rice for its program Tasty Bureau News.

Cable TV host Paula Wong Fong-man and I arrived at a local ricefield in Hok Tau, Fanling, to understand the growing of the grains.

We got the chance to sow some seeds.

Although the sun took pity on us and hid behind the clouds, the temperature was still 30 degrees C.

So as not to dirty our clothes for the filming, we had to put on waterproof bib overalls and boots while working in the field.

It was heavy, hot and stuffy work.

It was tremendously difficult to place a row of seeds nice and neatly, as it was so hard to move in the muddy field.

I immediately recalled the poem that mentions the plight of farming peasants by the late Tang Dynasty poet Li Shen (李紳).

Every single grain is truly the result of hard work by the farmers.

The farmers at the field told us farming was so tough that no youngsters will give it a try.

Each harvest yields no more than a few hundred catties of grain and cannot satisfy the insatiable demand.

Customers regularly inquire after the harvest and drive themselves to the countryside, craving the limited bags of grain once they are available.

The harvest is always sold out before it even makes it to the market.

Oh, please let me know when it is ready, so I can have a taste of the precious local grains!

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 1.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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