Di Bawoh Rang Ikang Kering
Random Ramblings of A Retired Retainer


Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Long long ago, in a place not that far away, my Anthropology lecturer told me that the Javanese have more words about rice than the Malays in Malaysia. I believed him. But, try as I might, I could not remember the Javanese words pertaining to rice. My lecturer might have not cited any examples. I couldn't remember. So I am imploring any of you who knows Javanese to enlighten us. Just give us the words connected to rice/padi and if there are no Bahasa Malaysia equivalent, my lecturer is right.
I got to the Indonesian Wikipedia but it was not much help. I did find out that the Javanese called sekam, the discarded padi husk, merang. Could this be the origin of the village's name? I also found that nasi (boiled rice) has a synonym in Indonesia. Nasi is also called ketan. Is it the same thing or is there a difference between them? That is something you can sink your teeth into.
Rice is very much revered in Austronesia and more so in Java. In Malaysia, at least in Terengganu, children are not allowed to waste rice. Leave a grain on your plate and you are told that the rice will weep mournfully the whole night. Neither do you take the easy way out by dropping the rice on the floor because stepping on abandoned rice will bring terrible nightmares. My nek's (grandmother) version was I would be pursued by fierce fat elephants. To welcome newlyweds, Malays throw handfuls of beras kunyit (rice mixed in saffron) at the couple for good luck. This practise is dying, probably due to rice getting too expensive to throw around. Westerners throw rice at newlyweds too. This is something that is mystifying to me. I would expect them to throw their own staple like potatoes, corns or boiled cabbage.
Toasted padi or bertih are used mainly by bomohs purportedly to feed the spirits. Apparently, spirits do not take Rice Krispies. This will bring us to the Malay equivalent of cornflakes which is of course ping (not the PPS kind.) Ping is Terengganuspeak for emping. It is made from young padi grains, fried and then pounded into flatness. The pounding is done using big wooden lesong and usually done in groups in an air of festivitivies. The ping is usually eaten with sugar and grated coconut. If it is eaten with a sweet gravy, it is called serawa. Ping was the main sustestance for padi farmers in Terengganu who camped in certain beaches in the state after harvest for what was called Main Pantai. Maggi Mee wasn't invented then. Some, of course, would bring their freshly harvested rice, duly husked which is called beras baru (new rice.) Beras baru makes delicious and aromatic out-of-this -world nasi lemak.
What other rice words can I think of? Oh yes, beras jemoh is the ordinary, non-sticky rice while beras pulut is the sticky gluteneous rice which can be really glutinous. Good nasi dagang Terengganu is made from the right mixture of beras jemoh and beras pulut. Rice from padi grown on high ground is padi huma. High placed and diplomatic Rice is of course, Condolezza. Stop booing , will you?

(Picture from Jasmine's website which neither sponsors nor endorses this post.)