Balik Rice

Ark of taste
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Padi Balik

Beras balik, also known as padi balik, originates from the rice farms in Stumbin, Bijat and Gran along the River Batang Lupar in Sarawak, in the northern part of the island of Borneo. The farmers in this area grow many varieties of rice for their own consumption and for sale. Their paddy land has simple basic drainage infrastructure to prevent tidal flooding and salt water intrusion. Irrigation infrastructure is not available and farmers grow a single crop of rice, sowing the crop in early September for transplant in early October, during the start of the monsoon season. These rice crops are totally dependent on rainwater for growth, and the rice is grown manually, from sowing to harvesting.  

Beras balik is a traditional rice variety that has long roots and is able to tap soil nutrients and water for growth. The plants are medium in height, measuring about 95-100 cm tall and having an erect plant type. Balik rice grows well in both upland and rain fed conditions. The stems are strong and thick and do not bend easily unless there is a strong wind before harvest. Farmers transplant 30-35 day old seedlings by hand, and this variety matures in 125 days after transplanting. The panicle is long, measuring between 27.5 cm. The grains of beras balik have a bright purplish pericarp (outer seed coat) that leaves a bright purple color on the endosperm (starchy part) when milled. It is sold as semi-polished rice and it cooks to a soft and sticky texture. Padi balik is a traditional rice variety that is naturally farmed with minimal chemical inputs because of its adaptability to the soils and clean natural environment.  

Beras balik originates from the traditional paddy fields of Stumbin, Batang Lupar in the Sri Aman Division of Sarawak. It is known for its aroma and purple color. Beras balik is as a specialty rice, served at special occasions and festivals. It has distinctive taste, color and reputation among the local people in Sarawak. In Sarawak, rice is the staple meal and it is cooked and eaten together with vegetables and meat and fish. About 200 tons were harvested annually in the mid-2010s, both for personal consumption and for sale. It is sold locally in farmers’ markets, where it can be sold at a good price, as there is demand for this variety. However, beras balik is grown by smallholder farmers, and the entire process is done by hand. The majority of these rice farmers are elderly, and if the younger generation is not interested in rice farming this variety may disappear.

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Indigenous community:Iban