According to Chinese myth, rice comes from the Zhejiang province, where the seeds arrived tied to the tails of dogs, saving the population from a terrible drought. Despite many studies, the academic community has still not come to an agreement on the real origins of rice. What is certain is that it was already being widely cultivated in Mesopotamia in the 4th century BC, and that the Ancient Greeks and Romans used it not as a food, but as
a medicinal plant. The Arabs later brought it from the Tigris and Euphrates basin to North Africa, Spain, Sicily and the rest of southern Italy between the 6th and 8th centuries AD.
Cereal grains are essential to our diet, and whole grains are especially beneficial. Rice and other grains are recommended by many countries’ food pyramids to make up a substantial part of our diets, along with fruit, legumes, vegetables and pasta. Half the world’s population relies on rice as a staple food, and so it is natural for it to be one of the featured foods at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre. Visitors will be able to discover unfamiliar varieties and meet rice-growing communities from around Asia in the Marketplace and during the event’s workshops and conferences.
To start with, we have the Terra Madre Network: Traditional Rices of Asia Taste Workshop (Saturday October 27, 2.30 pm), where producers and experts will be presenting types of rice from Sri Lanka, the Philippines,
South.Korea and Indonesia. Indeed, 90 percent of the world’s rice is grown in Asia, which is home to many traditional varieties. They include Kuruluthuda, Ma Wee, Pachchaperumal and Suwandel from Sri Lanka and Omino, historically grown on terraces in the Cordillera Central mountains in the Philippines, dark purple in color and excellent for making sweets and rice wine. From Korea, there is Go-Dae-Mai, an ancient local variety of wild rice, rich in antioxidants and used for rice cakes, wine and the production of natural cosmetics. Indonesia is home to Padi Batu red rice, also known as Padi Loyor, good for making nasi kebuli with goat broth, spices and clarified butter, or the typical sweet dodol, made from rice flour, cane sugar and coconut milk.
The program continues with the Conference Traditional Rices in Asia and Oceania (Saturday October 27, 6 pm).
Rice means life for billions of people in Asia and Oceania. With its deep cultural and spiritual significance, it is much more than just a staple food. Protecting the diversity of traditional rice varieties means safeguarding a priceless heritage.
Wandering through the market stalls, you’ll have a chance to sample rice specialties from the Indian, Nepalese, Philippine, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Japanese food communities. China will be represented by producers from the Beijing farmers’ market, held every Saturday in the Chinese capital. The market was opened in 2010 and has proven unexpectedly successful. Deng Yongsheng, better known as “Mr. Rice Wine,” is one of the market’s producers. Now 35, he worked as a cook, porter and estate agent before deciding to return to his origins and start making rice wine. He follows his family’s traditional techniques and recipes, which were at risk of being lost forever.
Moving south, you’ll find the Iban farmers from the Malaysian region of Sarawak. They cultivate many differentsonovarieties of rice, growing them both on the hills and in rice paddies. The rice is usually grown for their own consumption, while some is sold on the local market. The community will be bringing a dozen varieties of rice to Turin.
We’ll finish our journey in Japan, where rice is fermented into sake to make one of the country’s emblematic products. The alcoholic beverage features in two Taste Workshops. The first, on Friday October 26 at 5 pm, Hakko no Sato: Japanese Fermentation will tell the story of Kozaki, a rural village with a strong culture of fermentation thanks to koji, an important mold used to make sake, soy sauce, miso and other Japanese
fermented foods. Next comes Terra Madre Network: Tohoku and His Sakes, on Sunday October 28 at 12 pm, organized in collaboration with the Slow Food Fukushima, Miyagi and Kesennuma convivia. The destruction caused by the earthquakes and tsunamis in 2011 affected sake production in the Tohoku region, and recovery has been slow, so it was decided to dedicate a special event to tasting sakes from the region, accompanied by other regional specialties.
Finally, don’t miss the restaurant in the Oval, run by a rotation of chefs serving typical African, Asian and Middle Eastern dishes.
By Alessia Pautasso