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Rice, Dates, Varieties, and Competitions

Posted by James Plamondon on October 29, 2015 . 0 Comments

[UPDATE: The winner of The Rice Trader's 2015 "The World's Best Rice™" Competition was California Calrose Rice, not Thai Hom Mali/RD15 as predicted below.]

I predict that the winner of The Rice Trader's "The World's Best Rice™" competition in 2015 — to be announced at around noonish on 30th October — will be Thai Hom Mali (variety RD15).

Here's why.

The best jasmine rice varieties are photosensitive, meaning that they can only produce one crop per year, in the Autumn — specifically, in November, plus a bit on either side (late October and, perhaps, a bit in early December). By "the best varieties," I means the varieties that have ostensibly won The World's Best Rice™ competition. Why "ostensibly"?

  • The marketing name "Thai Hom Mali" includes two varieties: KDML105 and RD15, both of which are photosensitive.
  • The marketing name "Cambodian Jasmine Rice" has not been defined (publicly) at the time this blog post was written (October 27, 2015). However, it is known to include Phka Rumduol, which is photosensitive.
  • Paw Son and Calrose are also photosensitive.

On the other hand, inferior-tasting non-photoperiod-sensitive jasmine rice varieties can mature at any time...including right before a rice-tasting competition (if planted at the right time in advance).

Some rice varieties take longer to mature than others. For example:

Variety Days Flowers
RD15 125 October 15 - 25
KDML105 140 October 25 - November 5
Phka Rumduol 145 October 30 - November 7
Paw Son 145 October 30 - November 7
Calrose ? ?

 

As described in The Science of Jasmine Rice, the special flavor, fragrance, and tenderness of jasmine rice fade away very quickly. If the best rice varieties' new crops aren't ready to harvest when the competition takes place, then either they can't compete, or they have to compete with last year's (old, stale, hard, tasteless) crop.

Therefore, if you want your rice to win, you:

  • DO want the competition to be held as soon as possible after your rice is ready.
  • DO NOT want the competition to be held BEFORE your rice is ready.

Now, let's look at the dates on which The World's Best Rice™ (TWBR) competitions have been held:

Year Date Location Winner #1 Winner #2 (tie)
2009 27-28 October Cebu, Philippines Thai Hom Mali
2010 12-14 October Phuket, Thailand Thai Hom Mali
2011 19-21 October Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam Myanmar Paw Son Rice
2012 26-28 September Bali, Indonesia Cambodian Jasmine Rice California Calrose
2013 19-21 November Hong Kong, China Cambodian Jasmine Rice
2014 18-20 November Phnom Penh, Cambodia Cambodian Jasmine Rice Thai Hom Mali
2015 28-30 October Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia ? ?

Of the six TWBR competitions held thus far:

  • One was in late September (2012);
  • Three were in mid- or late- October (2009, 2010, and 2011); and
  • Two were in mid-November (2013 and 2014).

The variety of Thai Hom Mali rice that won in 2009 and 2010, and which tied in 2014, has not been publicly revealed (that I could find on the Interwebs, anyway). RD15 or KDML105? Both are included within the brand name "Thai Hom Mali." Given the early-ish October competition dates, the winning variety was almost certainly the earlier-maturing RD15.

Which begs the question: Which variety (or varieties) of "Cambodian Jasmine Rice" won in 2012, 2013, and 2014? Phka Rumduol was publicly stated to have been the winning variety of Cambodian Jasmine Rice in 2013 and 2014. However, it is rather hard to believe that Phka Rumduol could have been the winning variety in 2012, because the 2012 competition was held in September — more than a month before Phka Rumduol is harvested.

I have heard a rumor — and it seems plausible to me — that the winning variety in 2012 was the non-photosensitive and very fragrant Cambodian Jasmine Rice variety Sen Kra Oub. This variety would never have won against the best jasmine rice varieties, but the best varieties were (in effect) excluded by the 2012 competition's early date. That makes Sen Kra Oub "the best of the not-best rices." A similar result can be expected from any future competition held in September.

Notably, the two years when Phka Rumduol is more credibly claimed to have been the winning variety — 2013 and 2014 — the competition was held later than it had ever been held before: in November...which favored later-maturing varieties such as Thailand's KDML105 and Cambodia's Phka Rumduol. This was a fair test among the best varieties in the industry. And, as the Honorary President of the Thai Rice Exporters' Association said that year, "Honestly, Cambodian fragrant jasmine rice nowadays, the quality is somehow better than Thai."

In 2015, the competition's date is the previously-common "late October" — a date that does not favor Phka Rumduol or KDML105, but which does favor RD15.

Hence, I predict that the winner of The Rice Trader's "The World's Best Rice™" competition in 2015 will be Thai Hom Mali (variety RD15). Not because it's better than Phka Rumduol (which the Thais have themselves admitted it is not), but because the competition date precludes the entry of fresh-harvested New Crop 2015 of either Phka Rumduol or KDML105.

Unfortunately, we'll never know for sure, because the competition no longer announces the winning varieties or vendors, as it did in its first two years (a sad loss of specificity). It might be quite useful, scientifically speaking, to pass samples of the winning rice(s) on to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), to be genetically analyzed and their variety (or varieties) verified.

It will be very interesting to see is what happens in Autumn 2016, when I enter AwardBest's frozen Phka Rumduol from the 2015 harvest in The Rice Trader's 2016 "The World's Best Rice™" contest (in addition to new crop 2016 Phka Rumduol). 2015 was a tough year for rice — too little rain, then too much — so it could be a great "vintage," perhaps good enough to beat unfrozen rice from 2016. As I said: it will be interesting.  :-)

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