November 16, 2011

Broken Rice

"Broken rice? We don't eat broken rice." I still remember how offended my rich relative was when I wanted to discuss my essay topic with her. I was in Fifth Form then and I was to write about rice cultivation and types of rice. She rolled her eyes and puffed up...she ate only the best of rice specially milled in the local mill. She chose the topic "The Importance of Cars". So I was wondering perhaps poor people wrote on poor people's topics and rich people wrote on rich people's topics.

So I took myself off and interviewed  shop keepers about rice etc. It still did not dawn on me that  eating of full grain rice was important for saving face in those long ago days.

Rice in those days (1960's) came from Paloh and the lower Rajang and was milled by the Chinese who owned rice mills. This kind of rice was fairly higher end rice. Imported rice came from China and Thailand. 100% China rice was also known as the rice for poor people. Broken rice was sold at cheaper rates and a few varieties were available with some even designated as animal feed However occasionally we did get Iban home-milled rice (home pounded) rice. And this type of rice was for the feeble ones or children. I remember this rice as rougher and slightly brown in colour but the taste was very very good. The 1960's were also the years when people talked about "miracle rice" or double cropping of rice or the "Green Revolution". Those were catch phrases of the day.

The indigenous people were not yet selling their rice in the market. Tamu was not yet in the Sibu scene then. Bario rice was unheard of in those days.

So when I came across this bag I just had to photograph it for keepsake. And after 45 years I realise that I should not have felt so intimidated by what a rich relative said to me....broken rice is not something that we should look down upon for today we know more about different types of broken rice. We must never look down upon people and especially on what they eat.

And I found something else too after I googled ....Broken Rice as a dish in Vietnamese cuisine...
"Broken rice (Cơm tấm) is a dish that was historically eaten by rice farmers who couldn’t sell off their leftover broken rice grains. "
Vietnamese broken rice varies a lot around Vietnam, but it’d be safe to say that the dish is normally made up of broken rice, marinated pork chops, shredded pork skin, steamed pork and egg patty, a sunny side up fried egg, pickled carrots and daikon, sliced cucumbers and tangy fish sauce for dipping.


"I know it's the lower grade rice, but the texture of the broken pieces of rice is spectacular and I'm pretty hooked. I think it's sturdier per grain than whole grains of rice, so when the egg yolk pops and pours over everything, the combination is to die for. "(comment from one writer...)


One of my uncles would only eat porridge made from broken rice. My aunt would especially choose the rice in the shop and when took the rice home she would carefully sort out all the stones and other impurities. It was an act of love for her husband. To her and her children eating broken rice porridge was a very important family memory. Uncle would always say his broken rice porridge was special because his loving wife's care in cooking the best porridge in the world.

Reflecting on broken rice I can say again and again that children are easily traumatised by what adults and even what their peers say. And especially when they say very unkind and cruel words which hurt for years and perhaps even a life time.

I was slightly more sensitive then because my father had just passed away and we had really to stretch the proverbial dollar. So in a way I was "heart broken by broken rice" !!

However after we became educated and have jobs  we have been very fortunate to be able to eat some of the best rice produced in Sarawak. The local indigenous rice especially the Kanowit variety is sweet and soft and milling will always produce fine full grained rice.

There is indeed Kanowit broken rice too! It is the residue of the milled full grain rice..and this is collected into small packets - sold especially for cooking of porridge for small children and older people. Now that kind of broken rice is higher end rice!! But it is still broken rice and we love it.

I love my broken rice be it from Vietnam or Sarawak.....I cannot now be broken by broken rice.

30 comments:

Daniel Yiek said...

Like

mezzo solo said...

appreciation. .... a lesson our children must learn. Thank you ma'am.

Uncle Lee said...

Hello Sarawakania, very interesting post. I remember eating broken rice when young and what I heard from my mother and relatives when the Japanese occupied the country.

I believe there is no harm whatsoever who eats what, be it high grade long grain, Jasmine scented, whatever rice, it is still rice.
But yes, there will be people looking down, being prejudiced with broken rice.
Oh well, to each his, her own.
Always enlightening dropping by here.
You keep well. Best regards.
Lee.

Anonymous said...

Very recently the daughter from my old school friend said to my friends when the topic of rice came up: my mother only buy cheap rice and they do not taste soft and fragrance. And she is 21 years old! I was heart broken for her mother in a way. On the other hand I was disappointed she did not bring up her only child that appreciate to have rice on table every meal.

We grew up in a small village, poor. In my own family, there was 2-3 particular years we could only afford porridge, or sweet potatoes soup, or whatever. Only evening we had rice. My grandma, with the little money my mother and uncles gave her, could only afford to buy whatever that she can afford. And we never questioned what kind of rice. But any rice is good enough. Till this day I buy any kind of rice (of course in Europe and USA the rice are basically good quality rice), and judging by the kind of rice I have on-hand I would use them differently. Bad quality rice for porridge or fried rice, good quality rice eat plain. And I am 60.

I remember a Chinese poem about rice. Telling us that each grain of rice is raised with sweet and blood and just as equality with difficulties. And my grandmother, uncles and mom would NEVER allow us to leave behind a grain of rice on the plate. And till this day, my sisters and myself still keep to that rule.

Anonymous said...

hi Sarawakiana,

Broken rice is still rice and does not affect the nutrient anywhere.

By the way, someone just commented on your Pulau Kidjang post and mentioned that he was one of the two Nuri heli pilot. Perhaps can interview him for an article.

Anonymous said...

Sarawakiana,

Do you remember in the old days there was a fountain next to the old SMC building? I remember there was also a neon JAL logo next to it on the Hock hua Bank Building.

Yan said...

Gosh! I don't know "choi mee" is called broken rice! What a shame! At least I learn something new today!

My mum used to buy full grain and choi mee and mixed to cook! But for cooking porridge, it was just choi mee alone.

We, nine of us, grew up - all big and strong!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yan..many people used to ber embarrassed by their eating of choic mee. I would have done the same too...mix choi mee with full grain. You have a wonderful mother there!!

My mum too...we all grew BIG and strong too...
Cheers to choi mee.

The Observer said...

i love this rice story. it reminds me of an experience last week at the rice section of a snazzy supermarket. I was about to pick up a bag of ponni herbal rice my colleague recommended. she said that her family would only have that particular brand. I was keen to try. But i thought about my grandfather in the longhouse and my aunt who planted "beras bukit". I wondered if they had the luxury to eat the rice they planted or whether they sold the rice and bought "beras hancur" for themselves. I thought for a moment about my parents who sacrificed much for us siblings and wondered if they ever had the chance to pick up a 5kg bag of rice priced at RM35. but then again, I never complained about the type of rice we ate. I looked at the bag on the shelf and I just couldn't bring myself to pick it up. I decided to send my mother a text message to tell her how i felt.

I felt better afterwards. I realize that I don't need to buy a 35 ringgit bag of rice just because it is "assumed" to be the better grade of rice. Eating better rice does not make one a better person.

Ann said...

Rice in those days (1960's) came from Paloh : where is this Paloh? My husband comes from Paloh in Johor.

My great grand ma had a rice mill for the upper Rejang area.

Two nite ag, I was watching a docu on the Jew refugees in Shanghai, they were talking about the broken rice they had to eat.

Ann said...

p/s, I remember the big house you lived at the beginning of Oya road.

Anonymous said...

I think paloh is in the Lower Rejang, those deltas of the mighty Rejang!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarawakiana and everyone out there!!

Still remember this series?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8NGK8U8_7M&feature=related

Cheers!!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Daniel...thanks. Bad memories can turn very motivational...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Mezzo Solo..our children can learn a lot from their elders but remember not all (sadly) will like their elders telling stories.They think we are so lor soh!!..Cheers.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Uncle Lee..you are always so wise ...yes we must let others eat whatever they like..but most importantly we must never laugh at those who are poor...

Broken rice is good enough any time...and we can prepare it in many different ways.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous 1 - thanks for the wonderful sharing. Yes in foreign countries one can really get good quality rice in the supermarkets.

It is always good to prepare our children but if they don't listen now one day they will come to realise what is important!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Anonymous2
Thanks for writing a comment...Yes thanks for telling me about the nutrients of rice. I think rice is rice even though it is broken.

I will check on the PUlau Kidjang post. Thanks.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

The Observer
Thanks for writing. It is ok for you to spend on good rice as long as you know how to budget. 20% of your income can go to food. 10% can go to treats (for yourself and others ..e.g. a packet of good rice or a good steak) 20 % for old age. 30% for bills. 20% for hedging...how does that sound?

I am sure your loved ones love you tremendously for your thoughtfulness and kindness. May God bless you always.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann
Yes Paloh is somewhere near Bintangor where the swamps give us good swamp or wet rice. Not hill rice. That is a real coincident - Paloh in Johor and Paloh in Sarawak!!

How much did your grandma get for milling other people's rice?

Thanks for the reference to the White Russians. They had a hard time. There is a movie "The White Countess".

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann
although we lived in a big (wooden ) house my grandfather built...my mum had to struggle for several years after my father passed away as there wasn't any life insurance etc to help us . I was lucky to get a scholarship..without which I think I would be married to a betcha driver!! LOL.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Anonymous..thanks for the reference to Paloh...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...thanks for the Youtube reference. Will watch that...Much appreciated.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous..

I can't remember the JAL signboard..but I can remember the fountain of the SMC building!!

Can you tell me who put that advert up? I remember the "dancing neon lights" on the names of the cinemas...lovely to look at. Neon Lights were so fantastic then...Uhmmmm. must write about them too. thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone,

I'm wondering if anyone can tell me where to buy cheap rice grain in Kuching? Its actually for our animal feed. So we don't mind much on the quality of the grain. :)

Appreciate if y'all can list me the best place to buy 'em.

Cheers

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...when I go to Kuching I will try to find out more about the Rice Importers there..I think Gambier street would be the first place to look into. The Indian shops may have some.

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