Deciphering rice varieties
Growing up, I knew terms like sinandomeng, wagwag, laon, dinorado and malagkit. Those were the basic classifications of rice, pre-GMO days. A page from the forum of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) website has this information about rice varieties.
Dinorado is native upland rice characterized by its pinkish grain, sweet aroma, and good eating quality. This is exotic rice from Arakan Valley. Price is generally 50% higher than ordinary rice. However, nowadays, quality diminished as the genetic purity of its seed stocks declined.
Sinandomeng is classified as fancy, regular and special. Sinandomeng fancy is a “laon” rice (old rice). Characterized as “maalsa pag niluto at katamtaman ang lambot”. Sinandomeng regular is a combination of special and fancy. This one is “maalsa at malambot pag niluto”. Sinandomeng special is soft and delicious when cooked…
In other words, the traditional classifications were based on the characteristics of each rice variety. And that made a lot of sense. Other classifications were more the concern of the farmer as they pertained to characteristics that affected growth, propagation, yield, how soon the palay could be harvested, etcetera. Insofar as consumers were concerned, all the classification needed was to distinguish the cooking and eating quality of the rice — starchiness, stickiness, fluffiness, aroma, mouthfeel…
Last week, after buying fish and vegetables at the market, I went around browsing the stalls that I don’t often visit. When I reached the rice section, I found myself overwhelmed by the rice varieties available. I saw a variety called “Angelika” and wondered what it was. On the same page in the DOST forum, it is described as follows: “Angelica in NSIC Rc 122 is a certified rice variety. It has a medium characteristic in terms of eating quality.”
And, these days, it seems that where the rice was harvested has become an important aspect of marketing.
And the list of rice varieties keeps growing. Just last year, four new rice varieties were registered — Tubigan 23, Tubigan 24, Tubigan 25 and Japonica 3.
Still, the bottom line is affordability — the best that the household budget allows. At the rice section of market last week, the longest queue was at the National Food Authority (NFA) stall. As strange as it may sound, although the Philippines is supposedly among the top ten rice producers globally, we seem to be unable to produce sufficient rice to feed the population. The government imports cheap rice and the NFA sells it. The problem is the low quality of the rice. And that observation is not based on news reports alone. We tried NFA rice once — ONCE and never again because it smelled terrible and tasted like spoiled food.
What rice do we prefer at home these days? Normally, it’s whatever’s available with the right price tag. We used to be very partial to jasmine rice which is rather pricey. Our current favorite is the organic pandan rice produced by Lotus Pod which is pricier than other commercial varieties but a bit less expensive than jasmine. And it is organic. Lotus Pod products used to be sold only via meet-ups and at occasional weekend markets but I just checked the website and online shopping with door-to-door delivery is now possible. Hooray!