The most important ingredient in Thai gastronomy is rice (gkin kao), as it is always present on any Thai table. Meat, fish and vegetables are secondary elements in this gastronomy, as each of these ingredients is accompanied by Thai rice.
A Thai person consumes an average of 158 kg (350 lb) of rice every year. Thai rice is consumed in various ways from steamed rice, or simply in cookies, rice noodles or even in cakes.
In Thailand there are two types of rice. The first is a delicate, long grain variety which is mainly used in all meals. It can be found in different qualities, very white in color, soft and silky, when cooked the grain separates from each other, thus providing a very pleasant perfume to the palate. The second one is preferred in northern Thailand. It is a glutinous rice with a lot of starch, which is why the rice grains stick together when cooked.
The best time to harvest rice is in December because the weather is cooler and drier at that time, a fundamental factor for the grain to mature very slowly. This process is responsible for the quality of this rice, since in other seasons the quality of the rice can vary due to the weather, since on very hot days the rice grain can grow prematurely and if the weather is very humid it can cause the grain to husk before it grows.
In general, the rice grain is cultivated one year before its sale because this time is used to dry the grain a little in special compartments, this makes that at the time of cooking the rice requires less water than it really needs, accelerating in this way its cooking since we run the risk that when cooking it too much the grain becomes very rubbery.
Three kinds of Thai rice
We can distinguish three different kinds of rice, one of them is the jasmine rice, (khao chao), this is a very aromatic rice of long and fine grain, generally it can be found in all the central part of Thailand, as its name indicates this is a very aromatic rice similar to the basmati rice of India. The rice grain is practically translucent and when cooked it becomes soft and fluffy. Most of the plantations are located between the central and northeastern part of Thailand where we can find an ideal combination of soil, humidity and time, important factors for its growth. In the link that follows there is a recipe for you to try, made with jasmine rice: mahatmarice.com/products/jasmine-white-rice/
Glutinous rice (kao niow), this is a less long grain rice than jasmine, sweeter, rounded in shape and with a large amount of starch, this type of rice represents the staple diet of the people of northern and northwestern Thailand.
This rice is grown in the high mountains of this region. The amount of starch contained in this rice means that it requires less water to grow than jasmine rice.
The reason why this type of rice is unusual is due to the way it clumps together when cooked, thus allowing it to be eaten with the hands. It has a very amazing peculiarity, although it is a glutinous rice and when cooked its grains stick together, when eaten with the hand it does not stick to it, thus facilitating its ingestion. A very typical dish of this region is rice crackers with spicy sauce Thai style, usually accompanied with meat either duck or pork, using the rice as if it were a spoon.
Another particular difference is that unlike other types of rice, this one becomes translucent when cooked. As mentioned before, in the northern region this type of rice is the most consumed, being used for both savory and sweet food. One of their favorite dishes is rice with papaya.
Black glutinous rice
Black glutinous rice (kao niou dam), this type of rice has a similar flavor to walnut, which makes it unique in its kind. It is usually eaten as a snack with coconut milk and sugar, rarely eaten with main dishes.
Although it is called black rice, it is not. The color is due to the fact that once cultivated, it is submerged for a couple of hours in water with sweet and salty soy sauce, thus staining the rice grain. The sweet soy gives the color to the grain and the salty soy gives the perfume.