Monday, April 07, 2008In spite of the influx of foreign fare, we, like the rest of other Asians still cannot do without our daily rice. Sure we occasionally order Chateaubriand, fish and chips, pasta, pizza or even noodles in their various variants but as people in Terengganu would lament " Ambe dok jupe nasik lagi ari ning" (I havent had rice today). Even if we get tired of plain white rice, we go for the variants of rice-based dish - nasi goreng, nasi kerabu,nasi ayam, nasi dagang, nasi tupae, nasi kapit/himpit, nasi minyak, nasi beriyani, nasi air,nasi lemak, nasi rawan and the numerous other nasi. With so many forms of nasi in the country, I am disappointed that BERNAS or somebody else have not set up a place where you can get all the incarnations of nasi in one place.
Now we might be facing a rice shortage. We do not grow enough rice and I see padi fields being turned into airports, housing estates or commercial sites. A few of the rice exporting countries like India have banned export of rice. To make matters worse, the potato-eating people like the Americans have discovered rice, loving it and began adding rice to their culinary list. I am not talking about just rice pudding here.
So what do we do? We cannot give up rice. To us, rice is synonymous with food. We scold people who are suddenly weak by asking them " You haven't had rice or what?". There is even a TV commercial using this question. In old Malay culture, rice (padi/beras) also symbolises wealth. Hence you have "Ada beras, semua kerja deras, ada padi semua kerja jadi". My translation is "When you have rice, all work will be done in a thrice. When you have padi, successful will your projects be." Rice is the staple diet of 3 billion people in the world minus those on Atkins Diet. In places like Kuala Lumpur, even the chic restaurants like La Bodega offer rice. Try the paella in La Bodega. We cannot persuade people to forgo rice. Singapore tried that once many many years ago and failed. Phillipines tried offering "half rice". The Filipinos didn't buy it.
Probably we should save rice like we save water. Stop wasting rice. Maybe we should stop using rice other than for eating. Subsitute the bedak cotek for something else. Stop making bepang (sweet rice bricks). While we are at it, lets look for substitutes for the bomoh's bertih and beras kunyit. We should also stop throwing rice on newly-weds. Most are on family-planning anyway and do not need any fertility help.