Adding enriched rice flour kernels helps processed rice regain some of its nutritional value, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup
MANKIND has been consuming rice for thousands of years and modern archeologists have long debated on the origins of the rice crop, with the latest research indicating that it was first domesticated in the Pearl River valley in China.
It’s not known when rice was first consumed in our part of the world but it’s safe to say that we’ve been doing it for a very, very long time.
Rice is a staple food for Malaysians from all walks of life and many of us eat it practically every day. Our lives are sustained by it. It’s what we grew up on.
That said, we don’t tend to consider rice as something that needs to be reinvented. You could say the end consumer hardly thinks about the nature of rice, except during shopping trips to purchase it and meal times when it is eaten.
But that hasn’t stopped some people from working to improve rice. This includes the researchers at Fortifoods, a Malaysian company set up in 2014 with the aim of developing the highest quality of nutritious food products.
The company has two rice products under the brand Beras+. The first is the Fortified Parboiled Basmati Rice called Vita and the other is the Fortified Fragrant Rice called Nutri. The fortification comes in the form of rice-like kernels made of rice flour with added vitamins and minerals.
In its Press release, Fortifoods says: “Milled natural rice flour is processed using patented Swiss proprietary technology to produce micronutrien embedded rice kernels with excellent physical stability.
“The resulting product looks, feels and tastes like ordinary rice, and the kernels are mixed at an optimal ratio with regular rice to ensure a controlled intake of vitamins and minerals for a healthy diet.”
Fortified Vita kernels are formulated using concentrated beta carotene from carrots — hence the colour — and enriched with vitamin B1, vitamin B3, iron and zinc. It is mixed with parboiled basmati rice from Punjab state in India.
Meanwhile, Nutri kernels are enriched with iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B12 and folic acid, and mixed with non-GMO AAA Thai fragrant rice. The ratio of enriched rice flour kernels to rice is based on dietary guidelines set by the Ministry of Health.
“We don’t make the product as 100 per cent enriched rice kernels because the body can only use so much of the vitamins and minerals before they are expelled from the body,” explains Azlan Yeng Khalid, chief of operations of Fortifoods.
White rice has less nutritional value than brown rice because the nutrient-rich outer husk has been removed. But brown rice just isn’t as tasty as white rice. So these fortified kernels in the Nutri pack help to increase the nutritional value of white rice and still satisfy the tastebuds.
Meanwhile, parboiled rice is processed in such a way that it keeps its nutritional value closer to that of brown rice, although still not as nutritious.
But parboiled rice tastes rather bland and the texture, as a colleague puts it, “will leave you chewing and chewing without any real satisfaction.”
I was given both Vita and Nutri to try, and I enjoyed both of them. Taste-wise, the Thai fragrant rice wins hands down. It has beautiful, appetite-inducing fragrance and cooks to a wonderful, if slightly sticky, texture. It has a subtle sweet taste and works well with any dishes you add.
I don’t find the Vita as tasty but it’s still wonderful. It helps that the instructions on the pack tell you to add a pinch of salt, as that takes out some of the blandness.
It’s also not noticeably “chewy”. Sadly, the bright orange enriched kernels don’t keep much of their colour after cooking.
Beras+ Nutri retails at RM10.50 for a 1kg pack and RM16 for the Vita. The products are available for purchase on www.berasplus.com, as well as at Jaya Grocer supermarkets.
The company has also pledged that proceed of the sales will go to the Fortifoods Food Initiative to help tackle malnutrition among children in the country.