On the sleek black box containing six 140g satchels of Kinmemai Premium rice are the words "The World's Best Rice" (in both English and Chinese) emblazoned in gold. It's a bold claim to make, especially when a quick Google search of "the world's best rice" pulls up search results for Thailand's jasmine rice, which was awarded the title last year at the World Rice Conference.
We haven't tried the Thai grain to be able to draw conclusions on whether or not the claim is the result of conflating "premium and expensive" with "best", but there's no denying that Kinmemai Premium rice, which will be available in Singapore (the first country outside of Japan) come November, is the most expensive rice in the world. Guinness World Records gave it that honour, thanks to a pricetag of US$109 (S$148) per kilogram.
Like the more affordably priced Kinmemai Better White and Better Brown versions launched earlier this year, Kinmemai Premium is also a rinse-free rice as a result of a parent company Toyo Rice Corporation's patented rice-processing technology, and supposedly contains six times more lipopolysaccharides – a natural booster for the immune system - than regular white rice.
What makes the Premium so much more expensive than its predecessors, is the incredibly tedious process that it's made and developed from.
Comprised of five varieties of award-winning rice grains sourced from top rice producers in prefectures around Japan (the chosen rice grains can change from year to year), the rice grains are first selected for being compatible when blended, then matured for half a year through an ageing process to develop the grains' texture and flavour.
Finally, the patented processing technology gently buffs each grain to remove just the indigestible layer, leaving behind only the good, nutritional parts of the rice.
Having already tried the Kinmemai Better White and Better Brown and being able to discern a distinct quality difference in taste and texture when compared to regular white and brown rice (the Kinmemai white has a mild, nutty flavour and a creamy texture, while the brown has a lighter, fluffier texture), naturally, all we cared about was how this rice, almost twenty times the price of its predecessors, would taste.
If you'd been expecting morsels of rice bursting forth with incredible life-changing flavours, then well, you'd be disappointed. It's a great-tasting rice, for sure (sweet and creamy and with a lovely fluffy texture), but beyond a better mouthfeel, there's not much else to discern it from the regular Kinmemai rice - not at least to our plebeian tastebuds. Can we say for sure that it tastes better than regular Kinmemai? Possibly. Can we say that it tastes "I'll pay 20 times the price for this"-level of "better"? Not really.
But like the brand rep was quick to point out, Kinmemai Premium is hardly the sort of thing you'd buy for your own consumption (unless you really, really believe in the mantra of Treat Yo Self). More likely than not, you'd be purchasing this for someone Very Important - like your boss, a parent-in-law, or a Japonphile best friend - in which case we say, go forth and splurge.
Just don't forget to mention that it's the world's most expensive rice.