"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.