Participatory Programme – Royal Government of Bhutan

1. Introduction
It is believed that rice was domesticated in Asia more than 5,000 years ago and since then has been a part of the diet in Asia. Rice is one of the most important staple foods of the SAARC Region and has been cultivated in all SAARC Member States for centuries. This has gradually changed with the population increase and globalization making it cheaper to import, and the traditional rice varieties and cultivation have disappeared from some areas. The Festival of Rice Culinary Arts and Spice Exhibition is planned with the intention to revitalize the intangible cultural heritage associated with traditional foods of Asia which is based on rice and spice. This programme will highlight the resilient cultural heritage of the SAARC Region and help in the process of recovering and rebuilding after the global pandemic.

There are many rituals associated with rice including being the main food item at celebrations, festivals, life events such as birth, marriage and death, etc. Rice made for special occasions are flavoured by spices and other ingredients which are found in each Member State. Rice is also used in creating multiple types of foods including porridge, sweets, breads, medicines and fermented drinks. The SAARC Member States use different processes to create these food items and add different ingredients to increase the nutrition and flavours.

The Festival of Rice Culinary Arts and Spice Exhibition will be an opportunity for culinary artists to compare and contrast their processes, styles and methods of cooking with the others of the Region. The exhibition will also reflect different aspects of the shared cultural heritage of the SAARC Region.

2. Objectives
The main objectives of the SAARC Festival of Rice Culinary Arts and Spice Exhibition are as follows:

  • To revitalize the disappearing crafts associated with rice culinary arts of the SAARC Region.
  • To introduce the traditional, fusion and modern rice-based cuisines of the SAARC Member States to the SAARC Region and the international arena through tourists.
  • To compile records of the recipes, cuisine, traditional tools, and other elements utilized by food artisans involved in the festival.
  • To provide an opportunity to introduce traditional rice varieties of the Member States to a wider international audience.
  • To provide an opportunity for the participants to introduce the spices of each Member State to other participants, exchange ideas and create new recipes.

3. Programme
The SAARC Festival of Rice Culinary Arts and Spice Exhibition will have different components which will be used to highlight the culinary arts associated with rice varieties of the Member States and the intangible cultural heritage which are slowly disappearing. This will be a 4-day programme and all participants of the Member States shall participate in all the segments of the programme.

1) Food Festival
There will be stalls allocated to each participant Member State to share their rice-based traditional, fusion and modern food, street foods and others for the public to enjoy. The menus for the food festival will be decided by the participants of each Member State. Ingredients which should be made available for food preparation should be conveyed to the SAARC Cultural Centre by the participants at the earliest. The SCC will inform the participants of available resources at the earliest. All Member States should participate in the Food Festival and should be prepared to bring all the necessary special ingredients to prepare the food.

2) Live Cooking Demonstrations
The Festival will also provide an opportunity for live cooking demonstrations of street/local rice-based cuisines of the Region. The choice of food for live cooking demonstrations is at the discretion of the Member States and the participants. This could include staple food, savoury, sweet, snacks, drinks, etc., based on rice. All Member States should participate in this event and necessary ingredients, utensils, etc., should be planned ahead in coordination with the SAARC Cultural Centre.

3) Spice Exhibition
The Member States have different spices which enrich the taste of the food. The raw material for the spices is very similar but the quantities used and the ingredients mixed are slightly different creating different aromas of the food. The Spice Exhibition will be an opportunity to display the native spices of the Member States and provide an opportunity for the public to appreciate the different spices. The participants of the Member States should be able to introduce the spices with the specific ingredients and the special food made with these spices authentic to each Member State.

4) Exhibition of Traditional Implements used in Rice Culinary Arts
SAARC Member States are the inheritors of multiple utensils created to meet the needs of cuisines before the industrial age. Today many of these implements are replaced by electronic gadgets which makes the tasks faster but sometimes there is a slight difference in the taste. For example, hand ground (using mortar and pestle) rice has more fibre in the flour than the machine ground rice. This will be an opportunity to introduce the younger generation to fast disappearing utensils and to learn about their uses. Some of these implements will be heavy and the SAARC Cultural Centre hopes that the participants will bring photographs / sketches of traditional implements to be displayed. This will provide an opportunity to understand the similarities and differences in the traditional culinary implements of the SAARC Region. All Member State should try to bring the portable utensils, photographs, documentaries, videos, etc., of traditional utensils for this segment of the programme.

5) Workshop and Webinar on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Rice Culinary Arts
During the festival, the participants will be given an opportunity to discuss the intangible cultural heritage of rice culinary arts and to share knowledge and information. This will also give an opportunity for the culinary experts in the SAARC Region to share their views and ideas virtually. The webinar information will be made available and will be an open forum where culinary experts and practitioners of the culinary intangible heritage of the Region can participate in real-time. This information will be documented and shared online. All Member States should participate physically and virtually.

4. Participants
1) Officially Nominated Participants from the Member States
The honoured Member States to select participants who can contribute to the multiple segments of the Programme mentioned above. At least one participant should be able to share their knowledge / skills on each segment.
i. Host Member State of the Royal Government of Bhutan is invited to nominate a maximum of twenty (20) participants. Other Member States are invited to nominate a maximum of six (06) participants for the SAARC Festival of Rice Culinary Arts and Spice Exhibition.
ii. The Honoured Member States are respectfully requested to take into consideration the following guidelines.

  • The participants should be chefs, cooks, creators of food and new recipes, etc. They should be known for their creations of rice-based cuisine.
  • Among the participants at least one (01) person should be a Resource Person knowledgeable about the Rice Culinary Arts and the Intangible Cultural Heritage associated with culinary arts of the Member State.
  • A gender balance among the participants should be maintained if possible.
  • The nominated participants should be experts on traditional, fusion and modern rice based culinary arts.
  • Participants from different areas/regions of the Member States would be highly appreciated.

2) Other Participants from the Member States
i. Category A – The SAARC Cultural Centre would also accept the participation of other Experts from the Member States (other than the Official Nominees of the respective SAARC Member States).

  • The selection of other participants (Category A) will be at the discretion of the SAARC Cultural Centre based on the availability of space, their experience and expertise in Rice Culinary Arts and Spices.
  • Air Travel to be borne by the participant and SCC will provide accommodation and the cultural tour depending on availability.

ii. Category B – Participants from the Host Country where the event is held can participate. (Participants with culinary experience of rice cuisines in the Royal Government of Bhutan and traditional methods of creating various dishes can be included in this category.)

  • Other Participants (Category B) from the Host Member State will not be provided with Travelling and Accommodation.
  • Other Participants (Category B) will be provided access to the Stalls/Exhibition Area.

3) Virtual Participants – All Member States to nominate any number of Rice Culinary Experts / Intangible Cultural Practitioners of Rice Culinary Arts to join the Workshop/Webinar virtually. The Virtual activities will be open to the Public.

5. Nomination Procedure and Deadline
1) The names of all participants (Official & Other Participants Category A & B), relevant biographical information including their culinary experiences, contact details and copy of passport should be sent through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs / External Affairs of the Member State via the SAARC Secretariat to the SAARC Cultural Centre.
2) The Member States are required to send their official nominations for the SAARC Festival of Rice Culinary Arts and Spice Exhibition by 31st May 2024.
3) All Participants (Official Nominees and Other Participants) must fill the Registration Form which is attached as Annexure 1.

6. Additional Information for the Participants
1) Transport (Airfare) of the nominated participants to the Host Member State should be borne by the nominating Member State as per SAARC practice.
2) All local hospitality including accommodation, meals and local transportation will be provided for the officially nominated participants for the official duration of the Programme by the SAARC Cultural Centre.
3) General ingredients (vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, etc.) for the cuisine, if available in the Host Member State will be provided by the SAARC Cultural Centre. The list of ingredients and required quantities need to be sent to the SAARC Cultural Centre by the participants before the programme.
4) Required cooking utensils (ovens, cookers, pots and pans, etc.) will be provided by the SAARC Cultural Centre, however, specific requirements should be conveyed to the Centre by the participants.

7. Dates
The proposed dates are from 11th to 14th June 2024.

8. Venue of the Programme
This will be held in Paro or Punakha in Bhutan.

Registration Form : Download