My Trips

Rice of Pai

Rice is an ancient species of grass. Dated back to the day before history, rice is only a seasonal food because the main meal was game. Rice was divided into 3 breeds; the first one is Senica or Japonica founded around the Yangtze river, China. It then spread to Korea and Japan (this breed was planted 10,00 years ago), the second one is Indica, this long shaped rice was planted in the warmer climate, so it was cultivated in Sri Lanka, India, and the Malay Peninsula, the third one is Javanica was planted in Indonesia around 1,084 BC. then it spread to the Philippines and Japan. The first trace of rice in Thailand was found in Mae Hong Son at Pung Hung Cave, Pang Ma Pha; the archeological site was first investigated in 1972 by Chester Gorman, the rice was planted here for over 2,900-1,100 years ago.

Traditional ways of pounding rice by Karen in Huay Hee Village, Mae Hong Son  (image: Sutiluck  Plengseang)

Rice and Pai People

Variety of rice breeds from 7 ethnic groups of Pai

Despite living in the highland, Pai production rice is more than adequate for the whole village and makes enough surplus to sell to others. Thanks to Pai’s diversity of lands, it can cultivate both highland rice and plain rice. The bulk of the rice production happens in Doi Jig Jong, Ban Mae Na toeng, where its 700-1,000 meters above the sea, plus there is quality mineral water to feed the plants creating unique taste and qualification to the rice. Pai rice is divided by the group of people that process the rice. Among them, the group that holds the most varieties of rice are Karen with over 100 different breeds. Karens call rice “Bue” their rice ranges from being glutinous rice to just ordinary rice. Today many firms come to support farmers and encourage them to do it organically, this makes Pai an epicenter for organic rice varieties with about 221 different breeds being grown.

การฝัดข้าวกะเหรี่ยง หลังจากตำเอาเปลือกและรำข้าวออก (ภาพ สุทธิลักษณ์ เปล่งเสียง)

Rice Pairing in Pai’s Way

Each rice has its unique aroma and texture, but the ones  that stand out the most are called Khao Hom Pai which is high fiber and Vitamin E.  There is black sticky rice which has glutinous characteristics, Khao Niew Daeng  which is planted around Pang Kam, Bue Paloe Si a round shaped rice that has Japanese  characteristics. One that is is very famous is called Forget Husband Rice, which some say its so delicious that it makes you forget your husband, which is the Hmong breed.  Sin Lek is a rice that has been crossbred between Hom Nin and Jasmine rice. Not only is it tasty but very high in nutrients too.
Pai people know their rice and find the way to pair their food with rice very well.

สำรับกับข้าวที่เถียงนาลุงต่วน จัดเลี้ยง มากมายด้วยอาหารจากข้าว

Khao Som using Khao Hom Pai

Khao Som is a Dai food, it means cooked rice and stirred with a tomato sauce seasoned with salt, color with turmeric powder, and deep fried garlic oil served with deep fried garlic and chilis usually eat with a vegetable salad (Dai Style). The texture and a few glutinous characteristics of Khao Hom Pai make the rice stick together while it’s soaking all the sauce into it. Making a perfect and beautiful tomato rice ball.

Khao Dam Doi and Ob Kai (Northern Thai slow cooked chicken curry): This dish is a mixture of Dai and Burmese curry. The aroma of fermented soybeans blends with  Burmese spices, slow-cooked until the water level has gone. It goes perfectly well with Black sticky rice. This rice is also used as salad components in leading restaurants of Pai. It is also used in Khao Pook the grilled rice sheets sold in walking street, a Dai’s traditional food.

One of the biggest benefits of eating rice in Pai is that there are many farmers that invested a lot of effort, time and money to grow it organically. Pai’s population is the luckiest group as they have a chance to access organic produce without harmful pesticides that are locally produced in their own community. Why do people love to live in Pai? It’s artsy and unique; so it allows people to express themselves, but being in Pai, you also get the chance to eat well.

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