Over three thousand types of rice are grown in Cambodia according to the Federation of Cambodian Rice Exporters, and today sees the launch of a new festival celebrating the best varieties.
The First Cambodian Rice Festival takes place at Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort and promises rice games, displays from six different provinces, dance performances, rice history, a best rice competition, a cookery demonstration and food tastings.
The free festival continues throughout the day and is the brainchild of Sofitel general manager Fabrice Ducry.
“Wherever I go I try to find something related to the place that I can share with our guests,” he said. “When I arrived here I saw the rice fields everywhere round Siem Reap and I had this at the back of my mind. I just needed to find the right twist to put it together.”
Ducry had the idea of an educational exhibition, now running in the hotel lobby until next month. But following Cambodia’s success at the TRT World Rice Conference, where Cambodia Jasmine Rice won the 2012 World’s Best Rice category, Ducry and his fellow organisers decided to introduce a competition element.
“We thought we could do an exhibition where all the rice millers can come and present and have a tasting,” he said. “We have four different types of rice and 12-15 different rice millers will present in each category. The idea is that in the morning we’ll have the blind tastings, done by chefs from the Cambodia Restaurant Association from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.”
Activities start at 10am with a ‘krab dance’, a traditional Khmer folk dance followed by a cooking demonstration by celebrity chef Luu Meng, owner of the acclaimed Malis restaurant in Phnom Penh and co-star with UK TV chef Gordon Ramsay on his 2011 Gordon’s Great Escape series.
There will also be an opportunity for the public to taste some of the dishes.
After ‘chrot srov,’ a rice harvest dance, there will be a welcome speech by a representative from the Federation of Cambodian Rice Exporters. This will be followed by speeches by the French ambassador Serge Mostura, European Union ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Commerce Pan Sorasak and Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism.
Finally, the best rice winners will be announced in each category.
Ducry said that the rice-milling process is fascinating and hopes that in time tourists might be able to see it for themselves.