Rice is remakable grass. It can grow on sandy coasts as well as high in the mountain. More than any other food plant, it can withstand great extremes of heat and cold, light and dark.
Some theories say that rice cultivation began in China, other say in India. Recently, however, new evidence indicates that Southeast Asia was the birth place of the rice culktivation. Dr wilhelm G. Solhein, professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii,discovered the evidence in a hilly area of northern Thailand. From the evidence Dr Salheim found that rice was first cultivated in about 3500 B.C..
Today, Southeast Asians—and other Asians—are still growing and eating rice. Ninety percent of all world`s rice crop is produced and eaten in Asia. In this contenent, from Kapan to India, nearly threequarters of the people spend a large part of their lives in rice cultivation.
Anyone born in South and East Asia will see plenty of rice in his lifetime—white, warm rice ready to be eaten, golden rice being pounded to loosen the hulls from the grains, and fields of young green rice stretching to the horizon. There are thousands of rice varieties of different aroma, shape, colour, and taste. There are many methods of cooking rice. Filipinos put thier rice in cold water and then place it on the stove for water to boil. Malaysians squeeze rice while washing it, and add it to water that is already boiling. Indonesians usually steam their rice. There is wide range of complicated rice dishes—from the Thai “Kao tuing” and Philppine “lugao” to Indonesian “lontong” and “ketupat”(spiced rice steamed in tightly wrtapped leaf rolls) and the vietnamese “corn tay can”(rice with mushrooms, chiken and pork, served with a ginger sauce).
Rice is surrounded by many ancient customs, superstitions and religious beliefs. In java, traditional farmers use a speciala harvesting knife called “ani-ani”, which is sacred to the rice goddess Dewi Sri. In the mountainous Banau rice fields in the Philippines some farmer sacrifice pigs and chikens to rice in the belief that is has a soul. In Malaysia some farmers hide their harvesting knives in their sleeves as they approach a ripe field in order not to frighten the rice spirit and make rice losse its normal taste. The Minagkabau people at Sumatra prepare a big rice dish called “Nasi kuning”for their wedding feasts. They hide two wedding rings in the heap of cooked rice and the bride and groom must search for the rings after the ceremony, aritual Symbolizing their search for fortune in married life In Java, a symbolic rice cone called : “nasi tumpeng” , representing purity and wisdom, is prepared for almost every ceromonial occasion.
The methods of cooking rice, and the customs and religious belifs that surround rice, may differ widely from nation to nation. But there is today, in South and east Asia, one constant similarity among these millions of peoples the desire to grow more rice. Every nation is trying to produce more rice to feed its people.