Rice is Nice – A Hotelier Perspective

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A key ingredient and a staple in the kitchen is rice. The amazing variants of rice that are available in the country ensure that there is never a dull moment in hotel kitchens. 

Did you know that rice has been cultivated in India since 5000 B.C.? A staple of more than half of the population of the world, rice is a crop that is revered, cultivated and folklore associated with rice actually considers it to be a Gift of the Gods. Well the hoteliers are certainly thanking their stars for this gift as it can be used in myriad forms to dish up delectable food.

Myriad Choices

Rice, a seed of grass species like Oryza sativa (Asian) or Oryza Glaberrima (African) is most widely consumed staple food in India. There are innumerable variants of rice that differ on the basis of type, colour and taste. Jasmine rice is widely used in Thai food and in central and northern India we prefer an aromatic basmati; Kashmiris use a lot of red and pink rice, whereas the south tends toward short grain for dosa batters etc. due to the high starch content. Glutinous or sticky rice is of course popular in Chinese cuisines, Caribbean cuisine uses Japonica rice, while Mediterranean cuisines and Italians for dishes like risotto use medium grain varieties.  “Long grain rice is usually slim and dry once cooked and is used at premium occasions. It would be well suited to a Biryani whereas Jasmine rice (or Thai fragrant rice) is sticky and more starchy well suited to Asian cuisine. The Chinese Black Rice is used to make dessert with coconut milk and palm sugar in Asia whereas Short Grained Rice is used for the idli/dosa batter in South-India. Paella Rice comes from the Spanish region of Valencia and is used to make the authentic Spanish Paella dish. We use a lot of risotto rice for our dishes at Silver Beach Cafe & Estella,” explained Chef Vincy Rebello, Head Chef, Silver Beach Café. For Indian cuisine chefs predominantly use Basmati that is aged, long grain, aromatic and has uniformly heavy grains. Tanuj Nayyar, Executive Chef, Jaypee Residency Manor, Mussoorie  explained, “I prefer long grain basmati rice as it is full of flavor and compliments Indian food very well.  The texture of the rice is good which makes it appealing to the eye. Another variety of rice that we prefer is the purple rice from Meghalaya. It is rich in vitamins and has a good taste.”

Cuisine Considerations

Brown and red rice are considered to be one of the healthiest options as compared to white rice. They can be used in any type of cuisine. They both are closely related and have similar nutritional values. Japanese rice typically Koshihikari is the highest quality sushi rice. Its firmness, consistency, aroma and natural sweetness make it a perfect choice for making sushi. Neeraj Tyagi, Executive Chef, Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi avered, “for Risottos, Acquerello rice is one of the most sought-after rice. The rice is premium quality rice and is produced and packed by The Rondolino family based in Northern Italy. The rice is famous for its texture and consistency. The unhulled grains are aged in steel temperature controlled silos. The aging makes the proteins, starch and vitamins in the grains less water soluble, which allows the grains to absorb more liquid and flavors when cooked simultaneously improving the grain’s consistency.  This makes the grains less sticky and consequently less likely to bind together when cooked.”

Black rice%2c palm jaggery ice cream 2

Cost factor

Risotto rice is usually very expensive as is well aged long grain basmati. Brown/Red/Black are steep due to their rare availability and because they are the latest ‘health’ fads and preferred to white rice when losing weight. The different varieties of rice have a different price. Some are costlier than the others. “The price variation depends on the country of origin, shippers and the like. Usually, there is a price comparison that happens between the different options of rice available and then on the basis of quality of a particular vendor is selected with renegotiated prices,” said Anshuman Bali, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar. Acquerello rice being premium quality rice is expensive and costs around INR 2000 per kg. Only the Rondolino family is the main producers of Acquerello rice and their grains are known for its polish, nutrients and flavor.

Supplier Considerations

Considering the fact that this is an item that is required in large quantities, suppliers are selected on the basis of their ability to deliver a standard quality product in a timely manner. Given that over 40000 cultivated rice options currently available the choice is based on ease of availability on a regular basis, standard, quality and the cuisine. Rajeev Janveja – Corporate Chef, Lemon Tree Hotels explained, “at Lemon Tree Hotels, rice is determined by its physical and chemical characteristics, when we look at the grain it has to be whole, the kernel should not be discolored and not have any foreign particles. When we talk about chemical characteristics it should be aged, have aroma and should give us the best texture when cooked. We select vendors that provide good quality rice at the most optimum price with the ability to supply throughout the year with pan-India presence.” The pricing is worked out with vendors in bulk quantity, yearly tenders are made and accordingly the pricing of the dish is done so that the overall costing is balanced. Bali added, “there is a database available with the purchase committee of all credible vendors of a particular product. An annual tender submission exercise is held in which the prices are quoted by them. This is further negotiated and eventually gets finalized for the best product at the best price.” Vendors reputation in the market, product delivery, effective pricing, delivery stability whole year around and quality and consistency of the product are key elements of choosing the right suppliers. Increasingly, hoteliers are not brand conscious. Chef Chakradhar, Hotel Howard Johnson, Bengaluru Hebbal said, “we generally don’t go by brand value as such. We like to analyse the product on offer and see how our guest recognize and relish the food as well at the same time. So quality will only be the inclination for us to go for any brand and also the value it holds for guests today in the market. It is based on the idea of relationship building and extracting better quality products at a short period of time and in an cost effective manner.”

Brown Rice Paella 1 (1)

Procurement Strategies

Hoteliers call for an annual tender that is filled by the suppliers. After that shortlisted suppliers are called for negotiations and specifications. On the basis of factors like best rate for the year, quality and consistency a supplier is selected. “We select a particular variant on basis of the quality and the dish. For example, Bomba rice is the supreme strain of rice used in Spanish cuisine. It is grown in fresh mountain water and it known for its firm and delicious. It ideal for making Paella and there is no substitute for it,” explained Tyagi. Chef Prateek Sadhu, Head Chef & Co-Owner, Masque, Mumbai said, “at Masque, we are partial to small grain pink rice from the Gurez valley in the Himalayas. It has a very unique flavour profile – it’s very aromatic and starchy, and pairs exceptionally well with fish. Selection  depends on the flavour and textural profile we’re looking for in a particular dish. We also make it a point to work with small-scale farmers specifically, so that narrows the field down a bit. Rather than brands, we source out local suppliers and then sample the produce for quality to work out what pairs best with our food. Where the rice is grown and in what condition is very important to us. We traveled India extensively before opening the restaurant in order to meet these suppliers and find a product that we love; we’ve maintained those relationships and as the restaurant grows, so do our networks.”  Amit Bhatia, Executive Chef, The Chocolate Spoon Company Pvt. Ltd., added, “as procurement manager, the person in concern will ask for the different samples of required varieties of rice which would be tested by our highly qualified chefs. On the basis of guest necessities and tastes also according to our standards, we select the best quality and the orders are being placed to the specific vendor.” As a staple food rice is really the main ingredient in cuisine and hoteliers are certainly aware that rice is the key to unlocking culinary delicacies.

Rice Matters (Source: Internet)

  • India is the second leading producer of rice in the entire world, preceded only by China.
  • Rice is the staple diet of half the world’s population.
  • More than 90% of the world’s rice is grown and consumed in Asia.
  • It takes 5000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of irrigated rice.
  • 65 kilos of rice are milled annually for every person on earth.
  • Rice is a symbol of life and fertility, which is why rice was traditionally thrown at weddings.
  • In India, rice is associated with prosperity and with the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
  • There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice that grow across every continent except on Antarctica.

Rice producing states of India

  • West Bengal
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Punjab
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Odisha
  • Bihar

This story appeared in the Nov 17 issue of Hotelier India here and this is the PDF: Rice Story

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