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Phumtham Wechayachai’s Epic Culinary Adventure with Decade-Old Rice in Surin

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In a culinary display that could rival any episode of the most adventurous eating shows, Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai took the term ‘vintage dining’ to a whole new level in Surin. Imagine, if you will, a government official, not in the comfort of a posh restaurant, but standing valiantly in a warehouse, fork in hand, ready to delve into a plate of rice. Not just any rice, mind you, but grains that had been slumbering in storage since the administration of a now-convicted former prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra. This isn’t your average Monday meal.

This gastronomic feat was not intended as a political statement or a jab at past administrations, Phumtham explained amidst the echoes of clattering keyboards as reporters quizzed him at Government House. His mission? Purely culinary — well, almost. The true objective was to demonstrate the edibility of the decade-old, pledged rice, thereby encouraging its sale. Politics, according to him, were off the plate.

The scene unfolded in the northeastern province of Surin, where Phumtham, also a deputy prime minister, embarked on a taste test that would make even the most seasoned food critics pause. Surrounded by media, he consumed rice that had seen better days, aesthetically speaking. The grains, he reported, had undergone a chameleon-like transformation in color and were coated with a generous layer of dust. However, after a spa treatment involving up to 15 water baths, the rice emerged, not as a Michelin star contender, but certainly fit for consumption.

Despite its less-than-appetizing initial appearance, the rice’s grains retained their beauty — a testament, perhaps, to the resilience of Thai agriculture, or maybe just good storage practices. Phumtham’s intestinal fortitude, having faced no rebuke from his daring dining venture the day prior, was equally commendable.

With the stage set for an auction of this storied rice, the commerce minister’s gastronomic gamble aims to introduce these grizzled grains to the old-rice markets of Africa. It’s an international debut that’s been a decade in the making, much like a fine wine, except it’s rice, and it’s from a warehouse in Surin.

The backdrop of this unfolding rice saga is the Yingluck government’s rice-pledging scheme. Running from 2011 to 2014, it represented an unprecedented intervention in the rice market, setting purchase prices well above market rates and buying in limitless quantities. While it aimed to uplift Thai farmers, the fiscal aftermath painted a less rosy picture, leading to immense losses.

The tale took a dramatic turn as Yingluck, facing legal battles over the programme’s mismanagement, fled Thailand in a cinematic escape just before a verdict was delivered that would have seen her behind bars. Her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, another figure synonymous with Thai politics and legal dramas, hinted at a possible return for Yingluck, even as he himself navigated the complexities of return and readjustment to Thai life after years of exile.

As the dust settles on this remarkable demonstration of culinary bravery and the potential sale of the aged rice looms, one can’t help but marvel at the lengths to which some will go to prove a point, serve their nation, or perhaps just enjoy a very old plate of rice. In Surin, history, politics, and gastronomy collided in a way that’s sure to be remembered for at least another decade.


  1. FoodieLover May 7, 2024

    Eating decade-old rice just to prove a point? This seems recklessly daring but also quite fascinating. Kudos to Phumtham for his bravery, but I have to wonder about the safety of such a move.

    • RationalThinker May 7, 2024

      There’s something inherently risky about consuming food that old, no matter the number of water baths it’s had. Isn’t there a risk of foodborne illness, or are all risks eliminated through the cleaning process?

      • HealthGuru May 7, 2024

        Actually, if stored properly, rice can last a long time. The key factors affecting its shelf life include moisture and pests. Given the thorough cleaning, I’d say the risk was minimal and well managed in this case.

    • Optimist123 May 7, 2024

      It’s an inventive way to address food waste and storage issues. If this aged rice is truly safe to eat, it could set a precedent for managing surplus food in a sustainable way.

  2. HistoryBuff May 7, 2024

    This act transcends culinary boundaries and taps into the political and agricultural history of Thailand. It’s a subtle reminder of the rice-pledging scheme’s long-term implications. A bold statement wrapped up in a grain of rice.

    • SkepticalSue May 7, 2024

      You’re giving it too much credit. It’s just a political stunt to draw attention away from the scheme’s failure and the current storage problems. I doubt it’ll change anything in the grand scheme of things.

  3. GlobalCitizen May 7, 2024

    Exporting decade-old rice to Africa as if it’s some kind of vintage wine doesn’t sit right with me. Why should African markets settle for this when there are fresher alternatives? It reeks of double standards.

    • RealistRaj May 7, 2024

      I see your point, but if the rice is safe and economically viable for those markets, isn’t it better than letting it go to waste? Plus, it could be a unique opportunity for branding and opening new markets.

    • EthicalEater May 7, 2024

      The ethics of it are questionable. This ‘gastronomic gamble’ as they call it, shouldn’t compromise on quality or respect for other nations. There must be better solutions for surplus food than dumping it where it’s assumed ‘anything goes’.

  4. AgricultureAdvocate May 7, 2024

    What an extraordinary showcase of Thai agriculture’s resilience and innovation in food preservation! This could open many doors for agricultural research and development. Let’s not forget the core message of sustainability here.

    • TechieTrevor May 7, 2024

      Absolutely! The concept of using aged rice showcases an innovative approach to tackling food sustainability. Imagine the technological advances that could come from researching long-term food storage solutions.

  5. ClassicConnoisseur May 7, 2024

    Comparing aged rice to fine wine is a stretch. Wine improves with age under the right conditions; can we really say the same for rice? This seems more like a necessity than a culinary delight.

    • RiceRenaissance May 7, 2024

      Interesting point, but aged rice does have its place in some cultures as a delicacy. It’s all about perspective and, of course, the conditions under which it was aged. This could be the beginning of a new trend.

  6. CynicCharlie May 7, 2024

    Another day, another political stunt. When will officials focus on real issues rather than performing these elaborate public relations spectacles? I’m not buying the ‘purely culinary’ angle.

    • Optimist123 May 7, 2024

      Sometimes these stunts bring attention to underlying issues in a way that dry policy discussions can’t. It’s a creative approach to governance that can engage the public’s imagination and possibly drive real change.

  7. PaddyPat May 7, 2024

    As a farmer, I’m torn. On one hand, it’s ingenious to find a use for the surplus. On the other, it highlights the glaring inefficiencies in our food distribution systems. Why was there so much excess in the first place?

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