Rice is the most important basis for a meal, not only in Thailand (which is also one of the largest rice exporters in the world), but also for all other countries in East and Southeast Asia.
Thai children are taught to treat their food with respect, especially their rice. They are told not to brag more than they can actually eat and not to spill or drop rice from their spoon on the ground. Then Mae Phosop becomes angry, the rice goddess, also called the mother of rice. And no one wants that. It has been believed since time immemorial that she ensures a good harvest. According to tradition, after a meal the children thank the rice mother with a wai, the reverent Thai greeting.
Rice is a cereal (and grains are the seeds for grasses, so rice is actually a grass) and is easy to grow in an environment where it is nice and warm and humid. That explains why by far the most rice comes from Asia. Rice is strong and grows very fast, faster than weeds for example. Rice farmers harvest three times a year if everything goes well. It grows in places where other crops don't stand a chance, on mountain slopes and even in swamps.
We all know the beautiful pictures of Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian rice fields, sometimes even stacked as terraces against a mountain slope. To grow rice, a small dyke is built with sand and mud, a piece of land that is flooded or flooded by the rain. Only when it is nice and muddy are the seeds planted. When they are fully grown the water is drained away and the rice can be harvested. The farmers remove the rice grains from the plants (this is called threshing) and an inedible husk, the chaff, is removed. Then you have brown rice. If also the fibrous husk (bran) that surrounds the rice is removed you get the white rice that we know so well.
Brown rice is healthy because it is a wholemeal product, but there is nothing wrong with ordinary white rice. It contains carbohydrates, but virtually no fats, sugars or salt. And they contain a lot of good minerals (potassium and phosphorus), vitamins (B) and also quite a bit of protein.
There are many thousands of types of rice. One (because of the amount of starch) better suited as dry grain, another perfect for sticky rice. We love jasmine rice, which originally comes from Thailand. The rice has a long grain, a nice white color and a bit of a sweet smell. It is called white jasmine rice in Thailand because the white color is reminiscent of the flower.
Take a good look when walking in the streets of Thailand. In many a quiet place people are eating. A hand of rice from the sachet is dipped in the sauce of meat and vegetables and then it is smoked. It is cheap and yet tasty. Even though this meal is simple, it can't be done without the rice.