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How Jasmine Rice is Grown: From Paddy to Table | Mini Documentary

October 12, 2019


(lively music) Sawaddee Ka. – Welcome to a very special
episode of Hot Thai Kitchen. So I just came back
from a trip to Thailand, but this was not a regular trip. I was on a special mission. So the Thai Trade Center invited me, along with a couple of journalists on this fantastic trip that
looks at the journey of rice from paddy to table. I was super excited about
this trip before I went, but by the time I was done with it, I was just absolutely blown away at all the different
things that I learned. It was such a cool
experience, and I’m so excited to be able to share this with you in this special video. So to start out the trip, we went to a province of Suphanburi, which is not too far out of Bangkok, and we went to this place
that was so fascinating, and we got to see the very beginning of the journey of rice. Let’s take a look. So I’m here at a place called Na Here Chai in the Suphanburi province. Now, this place, I don’t
really know too much about it, but I know that it’s a
learning center about rice. So I am here to learn
about how rice is grown, and apparently it’s supposed
to be pretty hands-on, but I really have no idea what to expect, so this is gonna be fun. At first I wasn’t quite sure
what this place was exactly. There were some
traditional Thai buildings, but also some sort of a factory, or maybe a warehouse, and of course, lots and lots of rice. Loads of rice. Now, what I did know and was excited about was that I would get to do
some hands-on rice planting. But first, we got on a
brief introductory tour, led by Here Chai himself, who
is the owner of this place. It doesn’t look like much here, but what’s behind me are trays that the little seedlings
have dropped into, and check this out! This is a tiny little rice grain that’s just sprouted. This is like the babiest of baby rice. Next comes the best part. We’re heading to a miniature rice paddy, and yes, this is where I would get to some actual rice planting for the first and probably the only time in my life. Look at this. Rice! On the plant. I’ve never seen one. I’ve never touched one until today. I’ve seen pictures of it on rice bags. Look at that. Look how beautiful this is. All right, my uniform has arrived. I gotta put my farmer
hat on and my big boots. My farmer boots. Wow, these fit better. (speaks in foreign language) – [Woman] That’s more fashionable. – It’s been a long time since
somebody tied my laces for me. Ta-da! I’m ready to go (laughs). I am so excited, you have no idea. I’ve always seen this, like I don’t know, on TV, in documentaries, and now I’m about to experience it firsthand. (speaks in foreign language) Oh, so apparently, they do it bare feet. I’m just a princess. So these are the rice seedlings that have been grown separately, and now they’ve grown to the right age, they get planted into
this muddy paddy here. (screams) So that mud was a lot
deeper than I thought, and really hard to walk in in those boots. No wonder farmers actually go bare feet. The planting itself was
pretty straightforward. Stick each rice plant into
the mud in nice, neat rows, and then smooth everything
out to cover the hole. This is a very strange
feeling on my hands right now. It’s soft and smooth. If any of you have ever put,
like, mud masks on your face, that’s kind of like this. I am never throwing away a
single grain of rice ever again. Ta-da! (laughs) I grew rice, ladies and gentlemen. I really need a round of
applause for all of this. Oh, my gosh, was that an experience! That was so much fun. And it’s a lot of work. But people used to do this for a living all day, day-in, day-out. I mean, nowadays they
have trucks and things that do this for you in neat rows. Man, that’s a mess. But back in the day, this is what people did eight hours
a day just to grow rice. This is how you really
appreciate your food. After that, we headed to
this beautiful, carpet-like vast field of baby rice plants. And turns out this is actually
Here Chai’s main business. Look at this. It’s literally a carpet of rice. So this is the seedling, and now they have a machine, like a big tractor that separates all of these
into tiny little bunches and then they place those
little bunches in the paddies, so basically what I
was doing with my hand, now they have a machine to do all of that. Look, the watering machine’s here. So what they do here is they
actually grow the seedlings for various farmers. So they will sell (speaks
in foreign language). So they will sell these seedlings for all the farmers in this form, and they just roll it up
like carpet and transport it. But the highlight for me
were these adorable buffalos! Here Chai actually keeps
them here to represent pre-tractor times, when buffalos were used to plow rice paddies. This is the female. Her name is Wen. So all this was good and fun, but it still left me a little confused as to what this place actually is. It’s a learning center,
it’s a bit of a museum, it’s also a rice nursery,
so I chatted with Here Chai to find out what is the
story behind this place. So he explained to me
that back in the day, he just sold seedlings. He developed different rice varieties, and he sold them to farmers, but as he became more and more successful, he started to realize that there was a lot of knowledge that he collected. A lot of farming techniques,
just know-hows in general about rice farming. But there was nowhere
to spread that knowledge and to pass it on to other farmers. So he wanted to start a learning center to serve that need. Today, Here Chai opens up to the public and also accepts field trips, because he recognizes
that knowledge about rice is so core to the Thai way of life, since rice really is the
lifeblood of Thai people. Now, in Thailand, we have a saying that rice farmers are the
backbone of our country. And it is absolutely true. Especially before the age of machinery, when that’s how hard
they had to work all day to get rice on our table, and we eat a lot of rice. I mean, it is our number one sustenance, so definitely have a newfound appreciation for their hard work. So from the farm, the rice
gets dried and then milled, so that part we didn’t get to see, ’cause apparently it only happens during certain times of the year, but we got to see what I think is a really interesting part
of this whole process, so our next stop is a
rice processing plant. See, I always thought that rice just gets milled, bagged, and off it goes to the store, but apparently not, because I am standing
here at a processing plant where they deal with the rice between the milling and
the bagging process. I have no idea what happens here, so let’s go find out together. This plant is called Siam Grains, and it’s located in the suburb of Bangkok. We were first introduced to the manager and our guide, Mr. Kittipan. We started with an introductory video, and then Mr. Kittipan pointed out that just outside our window are the trucks full of rice that have just arrived from the mill. And the first thing they do
is they poke each bag of rice with this massive needle that
sucks up a sample of rice into the plant for quality control. This right here is the first
step of quality control. So the rice just got vacuumed. That’s where they all ended up. So they’re looking for, first
of all, moisture content. If the moisture content is above 14%, they reject it and they send it back, because if it’s too moist,
it’ll actually get mold on it, and the second thing is they sort of just, as you can see, rice all over the table. They sort of scatter the rice on the table and just take a look at
its overall appearance. Does it look good? You know, does it look
like nice, healthy rice? And the third thing is they
look for yellow grains. So there are usually a few yellow grains, which she said is usually rice
that’s too old or whatever. I’m not entirely sure, but it’s rice that they do not want, and if they look in this, they see that this lot has far
too many yellow grains, they reject the whole lot. There’s a lot of different,
tiny little details that go into this quality control process. After the rice gets through that preliminary sorting process, half of it goes up to the lab for, you know, things that requires lab for further QC, and the other
half, it’s really interesting, gets cooked in these cute
little rice cookers behind me. I love it. And they cook every single batch of rice to make sure that it’s up to standard. This is the lab I was talking about. Here, the rice goes through
a much more rigorous testing of moisture content, of
the whiteness of the rice, and also of purity,
which basically looks at how much of this jasmine rice is actually not jasmine rice? Turns out that some contamination of other white rice is inevitable, but if it’s not at least 92%
jasmine, they reject the lot. So we’re gonna now go in and take a closer look at the processing, but I’m looking at this pile of rice here, and I recognize it. I can get that at my local supermarket. The place is massive, and the first thing that hits you as you walk
in is the smell of rice. Yep, there’s definitely
a lot of rice in here. The rice first goes through a machine that sifts out little stones that’s left over from the milling process, because apparently, some rice mills use stones to mill their rice. And then the rice gets polished for that nice, shiny appearance
that you see at the store. But the really impressive thing was the next station that he showed me. So this is the coolest
part of this whole process. It’s a color sorter. Basically, there’s a camera that’s looking at all the rice
that’s pouring through, and if it catches anything
that doesn’t look like rice, basically, any yellowing grains, pieces of plastic, of glass, or anything that could’ve contaminated it, it uses wind to blow it all out, so that at the end, the only thing that comes through is rice. How cool is that? Look at this. This is all the rice that
went through the color sorter, so you can see it’s all
the yellow and white and all the imperfect grains came out. And after all the sifting and
the polishing and the sorting, the rice is finally ready to be bagged. But it’s not quite done yet. The bags then go through a metal detector to see if there’s any
teeny-tiny bits of metal that might have slipped
through the cracks. Then and only then are the
bags ready to be shipped out. And this giant claw right
here basically puts the rice on the pallet, and then off it goes into the truck, into the
containers, and look at that. How cool is that? And it just senses the
presence of the rice, and off it goes. Who knew so much had to happen to rice even after it’s been milled before it could end up on
our store shelves, right? Now, when I was at Siam Grains, I thought the place was huge, and I had never seen so
much rice in my life. But that was about to change, because our next stop was
in the province of Ayutthaya at the CP Processing Plant. I am now standing in front of the biggest rice processing plant in the world. This place processes over a
million tons of rice a year. A million! And this place is so big,
it’s even got its own port, and from here, rice gets
shipped either domestically or it goes to another port where it will ship all over the world. So the rice you’re having could
be coming from right here. And just so you get an idea of
how large this operation is, they have a command center. I know! A command center for rice. And from this room, they can keep track of every single step of the process, not just at this plant, but also at their other plants around the country. You know, what fascinated
me about this place isn’t so much what they
do, because fundamentally, they do the same thing
as Siam Grains does. But what’s remarkable
about it is the scale. When I say that this place processes a million tons of rice a year, to put that into perspective, that is 15 billion cups of cooked rice. 15 billion meals come out of this place every single year. Now, that was a lot of rice. And I had no idea rice could be such a technologically advanced operation. I mean, when I was in that command center, I felt like I was at NASA or something. And you know, when all was said and done, when we concluded the trip, the thing that was going through my
mind at the time was that I have cooked thousands of
batches of rice in my life, easy. And it had never occurred
to me that the reason why there’s no, not even a tiny little rock, a tiny bit of hay, no dirt, no nothing, and the reason why it’s
so white and fluffy every single time, like that
doesn’t happen naturally. Or easily, for that matter. I mean, it takes a lot of
work and attention to detail from people like Here Chai,
who develops a good variety, and then from people at
the processing plant, who clearly take no shortcuts to make sure the rice is absolutely perfect. So I hope you enjoyed this trip and learned from it as much as I did. Definitely let me know your
thoughts in the comments below, and if you haven’t
subscribed to this show, please do so, so you
never miss an episode, and I will see you next time. Sawaddee Ka (lively music)

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