Pnah sawlion is a local variety of sticky rice that can be either reddish or white in color. The individual grains are small and round in shape. The paddy is sown in a nursery at the end of January or early February, after which it is transplanted into the paddy fields. Like with most rice, the monsoon season plays an important role in providing enough water to feed the paddy. Pnah sawlion grows knee high and is harvested in the months of September and October. It is a very tasty and aromatic rice. Interestingly, after it is cooked it retains its consistency and feels quite hard when eaten. It is frequently pounded with a mortar and pestle and made into rice-based snacks served together with tea. Most often, however, it is eaten as a staple grain with meals.
In the past, pnah sawlion was grown by nearly all of the village of Thadnongiaw, and throughout the district of Ri Bhoi there are songs and dances dedicated to the cultivation of rice as a significant part of the local community and biodiversity. Today, this village is one of the few left where one can find paddies of pnah sawlion, where this variety is grown along with others. It is unknown how much pnah sawlion rice is harvested annually, but the quantity has decreased over the years. While the rice itself is not commonly sold on the market, some rice-based snacks made using this variety are. Today, pnah sawlion is mainly grown for personal or family consumption.
As with most other local varieties of rice that are slowly disappearing, pnah sawlion has been threatened by the push for more productive and easier to sell rice, along with competition from cheaper, subsidized rice. As a result farmers are moving away from growing pnah sawlion in order to accommodate more high yielding varieties. In addition, the local rice based snacks are now being made with the introduced rice varieties that are slowly eroding the culinary identity of the local people to their traditional agrobiodiversity.