There is one thing that I always think about when I think of Sarawak besides my experience of eating Sago worms, their indigenous rice, Bario rice. I lugged 25kg of this back to the West during my last trip in 2000.
Bario is an area is located in the centre of the Kelabit Highlands in the north east of Sarawak, East Malaysia, very close to the international border with Indonesian Kalimantan, and 3280 feet above sea level. It is the main settlement in the Kelabit Highlands. With an average temperature of 20C, they can plant crops different than of the lowlands where temperature are more than 32C-39C during the day time. Even their rice is different. It can only be found and planted here.
The rice is not cheap. It is airflown from the highlands to the lowlands. Bario is only accesible by air, unless you want to trek for days. And having sacks of rice with you while jungle trekking is no joke. It is cheaper to buy at Niah, Miri (not the cave, it's the name of the vilage where the cave is located, so ,the huge cave was named Niah cave. Even if it's cheaper at Niah, it's still cost 50% more than regular Thai fragrant rice. In Kuching, it's almost double. In the West, it's triple. If I didn't remember wrongly, there used to be 1.8kg packs sold in Major supermarkets at about RM20. I don't see them around now, maybe it's too expensive. If not I'll take a picture for you to see. So far I've only heard of one friend consuming this rice (West Msia $), CTZM, if you reading this, I'm talking about you. :)
(Prices are of year 2000)
Ok, back to why I took all the trouble to bring so much of this rice back... it's the best rice ever.
Really, seriously!!! Provided you cook it correctly. 1 cup rice, washed, drained properly and cooked with 1 cup water.
Small, smaller than a regular rice grain by half
White, when raw, looks white like glutinous rice. It doesn't look opaque like regular rice grains.
Soft and fluffy, like good quality Thai fragrant rice, but actually even better
Slightly bouncy, really, when you chew it, u can feel its bounciness
Sticky but not sticky, Like Stick-it Notes. The rice clumps together enough for you to pick it up with chopsticks, but easily separated... It's not like Thai fragrant rice when it's sticky, it's easily mushy. This is not. Bario rice is firm, soft with a nice stick. In my own opinion, even Calrose (Jap short grain) is not as good as this.
And if you can't finish the rice, and keep in the the fridge. When you reheat the rice later, the grains will fall apart like Basmathi.
I don't know how to describe this any further. Rice lovers will easily find this to be so so nice with the first mouthful.
It's not only found as white grains, but red or black grains too. All in the same small size.
So, if any of you are going to Sarawak, especially around Miri area, don't forget to buy some of this back, provided it's not prohibited by the law of your country to bring in rice. Any of you who wants to visit me from Sarawak, this will be the best thing to bring for me. I'll pay you back, don't worry. 10kg, all sapu* !!!
*sapu is a Malay word that means sweep or cleared, and in this scenario, it means cleared and taken
This rice is given by my cousin's wife, Jasmine.
She brought it back from Marudi, Sarawak during her last trip back to her hometown.
Love ya, Jasmine. Please bring me more :)