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10 amazing facts about the rice in your bowl

RICE IS RICE, RIGHT? Wrong! Rice is a whole range of wonderfulness. It’s a miracle food, it’s a staple, it’s a delicacy, it’s a business and it’s a whole culture. In Hong Kong, people say “if you haven’t had rice, you haven’t eaten” and this writer totally knows what they mean.

Rice connoisseur Anthony Lam Sai-ho of Golden Resources Group spent time with Friday Beyond Spotlights and shared some fascinating stories about the world’s favourite staple food — and his work keeping the magical grains flowing around the world, and into your bowl.

Watch the two-part video below and then keep scrolling for some fun facts from the show.

In part one, directly below, Anthony Lam talks to lawyer and lawmaker Nick Chan Hiu-fung about the facts and figures of his work.

In part two, Anthony shares stories about his life outside the spotlight.


1) Scientists are bringing extinct varieties of rice back to life! Fa Yui Tsai disappeared in Hong Kong more than half a century ago. But now it’s back.

“I call it Jurassic Rice,” says Anthony. (It’s delicious, with a slight vanilla aroma.)

2) Believe it or not, China is not the world’s biggest rice consuming country. People in Bangladesh eat 268.9 kilos of the glorious white stuff each person, every year, Anthony reports.

People in Mainland China eat less than half of that, at 128.1 kg.

3) Rice started off as an indigenous plant near the Yangtze River more than 8,500 years ago, rice king Anthony Lam says. Today, it’s grown in large quantities in at least ten countries and probably 99.9 per cent of people on the planet eat it in some form.

Anthony Lam knows his business — he started at the bottom handlings sacks of rice.

4) Humans eat more than half a billion metric tons of rice every year, Anthony told Friday Beyond Spotlights. That’s the same weight as about five million blue whales.

5) But some folk eat very little, Anthony said. Serbians eat only one kilo of rice per person per year—so rice exporters are excited that there’s room for growth there. Their neighbors in Montenegro eat less than two kilos. Just wait until they taste Anthony’s (and Hong Kong’s) most adored rich dish: cha-siu faan (barbecued pork with rice).

These special hooks are used by skilled staff to lift rice sacks without damaging them.

6) Is rice going out of fashion? Nope! In fact, rice trading worldwide went up a whole ten per cent in the past year, possibly because less wheat is being traded, Anthony says.

7) In Shanghai, people consume soup-rice dishes, while Japanese often eat their rice in tea. Why? In the distant past, there were often tiny grains of sand or grit in rice that spoiled each mouthful – not to mention your teeth. People learned to eat it in soups and other liquids because the particles sank to the bottom, Anthony explains.

These days you don’t have to do that, as there is no grit or sand. But people learned to enjoy those dishes, so they stay on the menu. Friday staff recommend trying homemade chicken soup with rice – it turns a single small dish into a yummy satisfying meal.

Nick Chan is here seen in a recreation of a classic rice shop in the style of the 1960s or 1970s.

8) Rice should be “paired” with foods, just like you pair certain wines with certain dishes, Anthony advises. People enjoy fragrant rice – but it tastes wrong when used for sushi. And Japanese pearl rice feels wrong in a Hong Kong claypot dish. For risotto, be like the Italians and use arborio rice, and of course, basmati rice for curry.

9) Remember when it was reported that Hong Kong ran out of rice, after problems with cross-border delivery systems? In reality, Hong Kong never actually ran out of rice. Panicking people bought multiple bags of rice and emptied the shelves, Anthony says. But at no time were the warehouses close to empty.

Anthony Lam sampling the goods with interviewer Nick Chan.

10) The Hong Kong government has a good system where each rice company keeps a store of 17 per cent of supply set aside in cash of a border issue, Anthony explains. So even if all rice deliveries stopped, Hong Kong would have many weeks to solve any problems.

So fear not, rice-lovers. Your rice supply is not likely to be interrupted!

Images by Friday Beyond Spotlights.

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