The quality of rice can be assessed based on the type of rice at hand. Different customers will have preference for a particular rice variety due to the quality attributes that characterize it. For example, some people prefer long and slender rice grains compared to short or medium grains while others go for aromatic rice regardless of the grain size. As such, it is difficult to have a consensus on what is meant by quality in rice but we can have a few tips that can guide you to select the best rice in the market. For the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on Pishori rice. The following are some of the secrets that we use to check the quality of Pishori rice:
The Grain Size
Rice varieties based on the grain size fall into three categories: long grain, medium grain, and short grain. The size of aromatic rice ranges from medium to long grain. The local Mwea Pishori rice is a medium grain and thus you can differentiate it from any other rice purported to be Pishori rice. If you find that the grains are short and plump or long and slender, that is definitely not Pishori rice. It is important to know that the size of the rice grains affect the outcome of the rice dish prepared in terms of clinginess. Long grained rice does not clump together when cooked while short grains tend to do so due the presence of high amount of starch. As for Pishori, as long as it is well dried, cook with enough water, and control the heat, you will get separate rice after cooking.
Colour of the Grains
Except for brown rice, we all know that Pishori rice should be white in color. But here is what you probably didn’t know about the color of good Pishori rice: It should not be pure white. This is because the pure white color is an indication of Pishori rice that has not dried well and is not well-aged (freshly harvested rice). As such, its quality is poor in terms of taste and clinginess once it is cooked. Therefore, the color of well-aged and properly dried Pishori rice is “faded” white.
Age of the Rice
Still maintain that mantra that age is just a number? Well, that changes today! In regard to Pishori, age is quality and just like wine, the quality of Pishori rice improves with age. Thus, don’t purchase Pishori for the current season. It is always wise to buy rice from the previous season because it has been stored for a long time giving it a chance to dry well and improve in taste. However, you can still get good farmers who have dried their current season’s rice properly through sun drying. It is therefore crucial to know when the rice is harvested so that you can estimate exactly when you can find good rice. In Mwea, the rice is harvested twice in a year (March and November/December) in which the latter is the major season. Approximately, you can get great Pishori from mid-February (that which was harvested in Nov/Dec).
One of the major attributes of Pishori rice is its distinctive rich aroma. You can smell it without bringing it close to your nose. It’s good to note that as Pishori rice matures with age and improves some of its qualitative attributes, others like aroma reduces. Thus, freshly harvested Pishori is more aromatic than the old one. This is a tricky scenario for the consumers, especially those who regard a very strong aroma as a guarantee for the perfect Pishori rice. They are likely to buy the not well dried and aged rice. Also, beware of some unscrupulous business people who blend Pishori rice with Sindano and sell it at a cheap price or import poor quality rice and spray it with ‘perfume’ so that it can be aromatic and sell it as Pishori rice from Mwea. The natural aroma for Pishori rice is nutty like, rich, and does not fade when you wash your rice. On the other hand, the aroma for the ‘perfumed’ Pishori is too strong (kinda choky) and fades away after washing.
The Texture of the Grains
The grains of pure Pishori rice are not smooth when you feel them with your hands. It is hard to explain the texture but it is kinda fluffy. When you are checking for the best rice in the market, take a handful grains and move your fingers in a circular motion so as to feel the grains. If the grains feel smooth and look shiny, you are about to be lied to. Go to the next store.
The Taste of the Grains
I know what you are thinking. Eat the raw rice grains? Ooh yes! Take a few grains and chew. The pure Pishori grains have that rich nut taste and they are chewy. So if you chew and get a different experience from this, then that is not pure Pishori.
The Amount of Broken Grains
This is another factor to consider when buying rice in the market. Just spread the rice grains on your palm and check out how much of the grains are broken. The higher the percentage of broken grains, the higher the tendency to clump together after cooking due to the high amount of surface starch. Therefore, take the rice with a small percentage of broken grains. As you check for the broken grains, don’t take a sample from the top of the bag/ bucket. Dig deeper because some sellers can cover the top of the rice bags with whole grains while the rest of the sack has too much broken grains.
Some of these attributes can be difficult to assess at once, especially for those who did not know some of the things that can help you get great Pishori rice. However, there is always the first time and the rest get easier. Also, some of these things are also influenced by your 6th sense and whispers from the ancestors!
We hope that this information is helpful and remember that food is the ingredient that binds people together. So don’t let it be fake, cheap, tasteless and unflavored.
Have you tried Merry’s Gold Pishori yet? Trust us, you’ll love every grain at first taste