Rice (Malay: nasi) was and still is the most important staple food in Malaysia. According to Indonesian-born food and cookery writer Sri Owen, there is some evidence for rice cultivation found in the state of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo dated 2300 BC, and about 900 years of history for the state of Kelantan in West Malaysia. Today Malaysia produces about seventy percent of the amount of rice it needs to support itself, and the rest is imported. This is a matter of policy as the government believes that national resources can be used more profitably instead of attempting to achieve self-sufficiency with rice production; the prevalent attitude is that revenue generated from its industries enables the country to import up to half the rice it needs. Nevertheless, the government is fully committed and involved in planning, allocating resources and managing subsidies for the rice farming industry. The state of Kedah is considered the “rice bowl” (Malay: jelapang padi) of the country, accounting for about half of Malaysia’s total production of rice. Plain steamed white rice, to be served with side dishes of meat or vegetables, is typically prepared with an electric rice cooker at home. Some households and food establishments prefer to cook rice on a stove top with the absorption method or the rapid-boil method. Compressed rice, called nasi himpit, is another method of preparing and cooking rice: the rice is wrapped with fronds or leaves and compressed into the form of a cylinder, which is then cooked by boiling. The rice would compress and merge during the cooking process. Compressed rice is usually eaten cold with some sort of gravy, although it may be served warm in a broth or soup. A notable variant of compressed rice prepared by the Bugis community is burasak: rice is precooked with coconut milk before it is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed until fully cooked. Besides the ubiquitous white rice, there are different types of locally grown and imported rice available in the market, and each type has a specific cooking method to bring out optimal results. Glutinous rice (Malay: pulut) is one example: because of its low amylose and high amylopectin content which results in a sticky texture after cooking, glutinous rice is prepared with different measurements and techniques and is not a suitable substitute for normal rice or vice versa. It is typically used for making snacks and desserts, but glutinous rice is also prepared as a savoury staple by indigenous peoples like the Orang Asli as well as the Dayak people of Borneo. Lemang is glutinous rice roasted in a hollowed bamboo tube, and is prepared for festive occasions like Ari Gawai, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and Hari Raya Aidiladha.
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Irrigation is the artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall. Additionally, irrigation also has a few other uses in crop production, which include protecting plants against frost, suppressing weed growth in grain fields and preventing soil consolidation. In contrast, agriculture that relies only on direct rainfall is referred to as rain-fed or dryland farming. Irrigation is often studied together with drainage, which is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from a given area. Archaeological investigation has identified evidence of irrigation where the natural rainfall was insufficient to support crops. Perennial irrigation was practiced in the Mesopotamian plain whereby crops were regularly watered throughout the growing season by coaxing water through a matrix of small channels formed in the field. Ancient Egyptians practiced Basin irrigation using the flooding of the Nile to inundate land plots which had been surrounded by dykes. The flood water was held until the fertile sediment had settled before the surplus was returned to the watercourse. There is evidence of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhet III in the twelfth dynasty (about 1800 BCE) using the natural lake of the Faiyum Oasis as a reservoir to store surpluses of water for use during the dry seasons, the lake swelled annually from flooding of the Nile. In sub-Saharan Africa irrigation reached the Niger River region cultures and civilizations by the first or second millennium BCE and was based on wet season flooding and water harvesting. Terrace irrigation is evidenced in pre-Columbian America, early Syria, India, and China. In the Zana Valley of the Andes Mountains in Peru, archaeologists found remains of three irrigation canals radiocarbon dated from the 4th millennium BCE, the 3rd millennium BCE and the 9th century CE. These canals are the earliest record of irrigation in the New World. Traces of a canal possibly dating from the 5th millennium BCE were found under the 4th millennium canal. Sophisticated irrigation and storage systems were developed by the Indus Valley Civilization in present-day Pakistan and North India, including the reservoirs at Girnar in 3000 BCE and an early canal irrigation system from circa 2600 BCE. Large scale agriculture was practiced and an extensive network of canals was used for the purpose of irrigation. The irrigation works of ancient Sri Lanka, the earliest dating from about 300 BCE, in the reign of King Pandukabhaya and under continuous development for the next thousand years, were one of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world. In addition to underground canals, the Sinhalese were the first to build completely artificial reservoirs to store water. Due to their engineering superiority in this sector, they were often called ‘masters of irrigation’. [By whom?] Most of these irrigation systems still exist undamaged up to now, in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, because of the advanced and precise engineering. The system was extensively restored and further extended during the reign of King Parakrama Bahu (1153–1186 CE).
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