Cambodian Rice Wine and Sra Sor Story
Even though 95% of Cambodian people are Buddhists and it is compulsory to undertake at least five Buddhism precepts to live correctly by not hurting others and oneself. But in real life, only monks and lay men who practiced the precepts strictly follow the rules. Ordinary people are drinking alcoholic drinks especially Beer and Sra Sor (ស្រាស) just like tea.
This article, Sam Inspire is going to tell the story of Cambodian Rice Wine / Cambodian White Wine / Sra Sor from its history to the processes of how Rice Wine is made in Cambodia.
The Story of Rice Wine of Cambodia
Wine as an alcoholic drug has a long history of when it was firstly found back during the 6th century BCE according to Buddhism. In Buddhist countries, especially those who follow Theravada Buddhism like Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Wine is against the Buddhism’s good life precepts. This recalled the story of when wine was found and how this wine become banned from the drinking for any Buddhists.
Once upon a time in the age of Buddha’s living in the 6th century BC. On a big tree, there was a big gathering of birds singing and playing happily and some even dropped on the ground and could not fly or walk anymore and just slept there and all over the ground. There were some monks wondered what happened. After inspecting, he learned that all those birds changed their behavior after drinking the water from a small pond blocked in a tree hole filled with mixed fruits.
That monk drank some and fell so weird and good at some points. Then he started to invite all the monks and people to drink that Crazy liquid. Then, they started to study and learned that that water composed of mixed fruits soaked in that water for a long time. From there, people started to produce wine from fruits. And at the later stage, they learned to produce wine Yeast from fruits or tree skins and used rice as the instillation to produce wine. This kind of wine made from Rice is called Rice Wine.
The news of the monks drinking intoxicating drink and lost the good manner as the peaceful men was heard by Buddha. He learned all the fact and name that drink as Surah. And to prevent his following from committing this alcoholic drink, Buddha issued a new rule that none of his followers can undertake any alcoholic drink. That rule is the Precept 5: I undertake the training-precept to abstain from alcoholic drink or drugs that are an opportunity for heedlessness.” (Pali: Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.)
The sound of original Bali word of Surah is still used in Khmer language but it was modified to Sra (ស្រា) as the official word in Khmer language which means Wine. The word Sor as part of the locally called Rice Wine, mean White in Khmer. Therefore, the name of Rice Wine (Sra Sor in Khmer) should be White Wine in English. However, because it is so confused with the White Wine of the Grape made Wine, Sra Sor is called Rice Wine for English speakers.
How To Make Rice Wine in 10 Steps
In this article, Sam Inspire is going to share his knowledge of the Rice Wine Making Processes in 10 Comprehensive Steps. Please note that Samnang, the author of Sam Inspire blog has his oldest brother doing this Rice Wine Making for 30 years plus. Therefore, you can trust his knowledge here.
Before going into the process, here are some materials and facilities needed to do this business. A wine factory shelter at a size of around 3 x 5 meters. A cylindrical firewood cooker at 1-meter diameter. A cooler container with an aluminum pipe to go through the cooler and getting out at the foot with a tap. As for the materials, depending on the size of business and to make around 40 to 60 liters in each process. We need to have steaming pan with cover and chimney connected with a pipe or tube to the cooler tank. Space for keep the steamed rice to be cooled by keeping away from animals. A few containers for storing the fermented steamed rice. Sacks of rice, or broken rice. Rice fermented master powder / wine master. Containers for storing the wine production and yes some other smaller stuff.
1. Steam the Rice / Rice Cooking
Each common process to get 40 to 60 liter of final production of liquor, 30 kg of rice should be cooked. The rice should be a normal rice not sticky rice. To be economical, the worst quality of rice should be used or even broken rice. Each sack of broken rice cost twice cheaper than the normal lowest quality of rice. For instance, normal rice cost 25$ per sack and broken rice only cost 13$.
2. Dry the Steamed Rice (3 hours)
After the rice gets cooked / well steamed, take out the rice and displayed on a mat at the thinnest laying possible. Make sure to keep it safe from the animal. Allow this for at least 3 hours for the rice to get cool and calm.
3. Mix Steamed Rice with Wine Master Yeast
After three hours of keeping the steamed rice displayed, pestle or grind the pieces of wine master yeast into powder. Sow the powder all over displayed rice. Each piece of Yeast is for 10 kg of rice.
4. Fermenting the Steamed Rice for 3 days
After placing the yeast powder well all over the rice. Then move the rice to keep in a container. This process need at least two days to be well fermented and become alcoholic.
5. Pour Water In and Keep One More Night
After the rice got fermented, pour fresh water in around half of the container. Then keep it one more night.
6. Steam the Fermented Rice
Now the stored fermented streamed rice is good enough to move to the step of making the first drop of wine. This time, set the fire in the cooker. Place the steamed pot over the cooker and put the fermented Rice including its Water into the pot. And start boiling or steaming it until it prepared to get boiled (not yet boiling) with the pot opened.
7. Put the Cover of the Wine Making Pot
When the rice and liquid in the pot is getting closer to boiling. Place the pot’s cover on the pot (close the pot). This cover is special made with chimney on top and connected with a pipe leading to the cooling tank.
8. Pot Cover Edge Sealing with Miller’s Bran
To make sure there is no steam leaking out from the pot at the cover edge line. It is required to properly seal the edge. This sealing work is to be done with rice miller’s bran mixed with water. This sealing is not only to be done on the steamed pot cover but everywhere in the steaming vain such as along the pipe, and cooling tank.
Photo: See 7
9. Keep Boiling and First Rice Wine Made
Make sure to the fire burned at a steady level and keep the pot boiled. When the air in the pot got pressured and condensed made the steam travel along the pipe. This hot steam touches the cool pipe stored in the cooling tank producing Sweat on this part of the pipe. Then, when the pieces of sweat become heavier, it drops or flows down and out to the container. The liquid flows outside if the liquor which is our expected Rice Wine / Sra Sor production.
10. Keep the Flow (4 hours) Last Drift at 25 Degrees
Keep the processes continue flowing for four hours when the last drift of the alcohol lowers to 25 degrees. During the last hour is important that the producers has to pay attention. The longer the process taken, the most liquid produced but quality and strength alcohol become poorer. Therefore, 25 degrees is the last level of alcohol. If wine go longer and poorer than 25%, the wine taste will become sour which is the worst rice wine quality.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Sra Sor found to be the cheapest alcoholic drinks in Cambodia. One little cost only 3000 Riels (0.75 USD), which is the cost of a can of beer. This price could be raised up to 1.5 USD, if it is sold at the original degree without mixing with fresh water. This original drop of liquor could be used to serve the medication purposes as well by soaking some plants, fruits, and even poisonous animals like cobra, centipedes…
Price and medication usage is the pros for Cambodian village people. The cons of drinking Rice wine is harmful to the health, especially in this modern era when the yeast contain some chemical elements not 100% made from nature like in the past 20 years. The most dangerous for Sra Sor is when we don’t know the source where it was bought from. Because, there are some brainless selling use the most dangerous poisonous bug killer liquid to mix with fresh water to make first White Wine.
From this fact, please don’t drink Rice Wine unless you are sure it is safe to drink. If you need a suggestion of where to get the trusted Sra Sor, called Sam’s brother or contact Sam Inspire in the contact page. You can also visit his Cambodian Rice Wine Making factory located in Samrong Village, Leadai Commune, Angkor Thom District, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.
Believe we have covered most the difficult points that you might be hard to find anywhere. If there is any Area For Improvement (AFI), please feel free to comments, we will be so grateful and not taking it for granted.
Note: This article is for information purpose only, no liability will be taken for legal or official reference. Revisions could be done at the author’s discretion.
SAM INSPIRE family hopes you find this information useful to your research. This article is the reflection of Mr. Sam’s findings with zero political touch. If you need further support, please feel free to contact Sam, he will be so happy to do more steps to help you out.
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