If you could make a wish, just one, what would it be?
The smart and the restless would always reply with something like – another hundred/thousand more.
Is there a story where a genie responds to that? I never found out.
But rice is a lot like that wish, granted. A single seed of rice yields more than 3000 grains. This makes eminent sense, because as it turns out no one stops at just one or ten, if he can help it. And on our lucky continent, paddy makes its presence felt – Asia grows over 90% of the world’s rice crop and consumes a good deal of it too. Its cultivation may well demand a flood of water, but few seeds can beat it for bounty.
Someone’s said that rice is great if you want to eat ‘two thousand of something’ with the option of enjoying it all in over two thousand different ways, I’d add. I’m not just referring to the 7000 varieties of rice grown around the world. No doubt the finest gradations of change in size, shape, colour, texture, aroma, define the character of the final dish but why tarry when we can step right up to the plate and matters of the state. Or states.
The Asian continent, the birthplace of rice, may be forgiven for being a tad conceited about its primacy in the rice stakes. For like any irrepressible idea, the seed rode its way on the back of trade winds and in the pockets of adventurers, to put down its roots in far-flung lands. So Italy’s tryst with oryza goes as far back as the 16th Century, where it began being cultivated in the Po Valley. Creamy risotto was a staple of Northern Italy well before pasta made its case.
There’s Spain’s golden paella, regarded by some as a worthy contender for the rank of national dish; the irresistible jamabalaya which does perfect justice to the colour and music of the Caribbean and I’m not even getting into the infinite avatars it’s taken on home turf – from sushi and noodles to translucent rice wrappers, string hoppers and fermented rice drinks.
Don’t waste a minute – head right to ITC Rajputana, Jaipur between the 7th and 16th September for a mighty journey through the world’s rice dishes.
For more information, please visit the Gourmet Guide.