Htamane Pwe(Sticky Rice Preparation Competitions)

Htamane Pwe(Sticky Rice Preparation Competitions)

By: Harry Hpone Thant

Htamane - Sticky Rice 1

Tabodwe (January-February) is a cool month in Myanmar. A Myanmar saying goes “so cold as to freeze the tips of the buffalo’s horns”, that is how cold it gets in the central parts of the country in Pyatho(January) and Tabodwe(February).

But it is also the time when the first harvest is gathered. The paddy crop had ripened but it is the paddy species known as “kuak nyin” or the glutinous/sticky rice that are first harvested. In Myanmar this first harvest is offered to the pagodas and monks and to friends and neighbors too, to gain merit. Tabodwe is known as the month when the Htamane (sticky rice) making competitions are held.


The people of Myanmar had, however, organized these occasions into a community-based and joyful event. They organize competitions to make the finest sticky rice. Teams of youth representing their own neighborhoods enter these competitions with good spirits, sometimes accompanied by traditional “doebut” ( a music group) and their own group of fans.

The glutinous rice (either white or black variety) is put in a huge iron wok. Water and oil are added and stirred by muscular teams of youths. Slowly other ingredients are added too. These will include coconut shavings, sesame seeds, groundnuts, sliced ginger etc to enhance the flavor. Encouraged by their fans the teams stir and stir. Seems so easy at first, but slowly it gets harder and harder as the rice grains soak up the water and swell and consequently the whole wok becomes one sticky mess of glutinous matter. The sticky mess clings to the long paddles and makes them very difficult to stir. But the youths must put in more effort. The rice grains must all be dissolved into one huge sticky piece inside the wok and the added ingredients must also be thoroughly mixed in to get a really delicious wok of glutinous rice.

Sweats flow from the brows but the youths are urged on. The heat from the fire underneath the wok is unbearable. Maybe a secret smile from his sweetheart had given one boy extra strength as he renews his efforts by the huge wok. But for many it is stir, stir and stir. Will somebody scrape off the rice sticking on this youth’s long paddles, please? Thank you.

Everybody is busy here. The ladies had prepared clean plates to put the glutinous rice and offer the finished product to the pagodas and the monks. The children run around, busy in their own world of fantasies. The young girls do not want to come near the roaring fire, despite the commands from the older ladies. It would play havoc with their hairdos and their make-ups. It will make them look ugly! But the men folks cannot be bothered. They need to discuss the latest world news sitting around a table while sipping green tea. Who should run for US President in the next election? Anybody has any opinion? But all in all, everybody is happy and having a good time.

Jan 2009 049Soon the glutinous rice is ready. All reverently take the first plates to the pagoda and the monks. Packets are also prepared to be distributed to neighbors and friends. These will be taken around by the children with much fun and shouts. Other friends who had come here are also warmly welcomed and invited to partake the glutinous rice.

These traditional sticky rice preparation competitions are held all over the country during the Myanmar month of Tabodwe. Many are held at monasteries and pagoda compounds but some also in residential areas. No invitations are necessary or needed. Just walk into any competition and you will be warmly welcomed.


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