Melaka month has ended! To see the roundup of all the entries, visit yummylittlecooks.
Second month of MFF is Sarawak month and I’m excited to say Feats of Feasts will be hosting this entire September month. I grew up in Sarawak all my life and in that period lived in different divisions of Sarawak. Divisions are basically towns or cities and in Sarawak itself there are 11. Within each division is divided into districts and sub-districts.
- Betong Division
- Bintulu Division
- Kapit Division
- Kuching Division
- Limbang Division
- Miri Division
- Mukah Division
- Samarahan Division
- Sarikei Division
- Sibu Division
- Sri Aman Division
So just a brief tale of my own history (in case you want to make sure the credibility of my state status), my Dad is from Kapit while my Mom is from Miri, both of them Foochows so we’re a pure-bred family but don’t speak our own mother tongue. My elder brother and sister were born in Kapit while I was born in Sarikei and my youngest brother, born in Kapit too. Dad worked for the government then so we moved round a lot. The family had lived in Miri and Sibu (if I’m not mistaken) for a while and then settled in Kuching for the rest of our lives except me….I have been living in KL since 2001 while the rest of my family are still back home.
SHORT HISTORY OF SARAWAK
Of course Sarawak went through its course of foreign settlers and colonialization but the more well-known fact is the period of the Brooke Dynasty. Starting with James Brooke who was appointed by the Sultan of Brunei then. The reign was continued by Brooke’s nephew and his sons. After the British rule, came the Japanese invasion during the Second World War. Sarawak gained full independence in July 1963 and joined Malaya, Sabah and Singapore in September 1963.
If we look at history and how people lived then, they had to make do with what was available especially when times are tough. The cuisines reflect those times. The Dayaks rely largely on natural resources surrounding them whether it’s the jungle, forest, sea or rivers. Activities like foraging, hunting and fishing were important for food source. There were also farming of rice and other plants in the mountains as well as keeping small livestock for each family like pigs, chickens and buffaloes. Sarawak is known for produce such as pepper (white and black) and the rare but popular Bario rice.
Bario is a Malaysian village located in the centre of the Kelabit Highlands in the north east of Sarawak, very close to the international border with Indonesian Kalimantan, and 3280 feet above sea level. It is the main settlement in the Kelabit Highlands. There are regular flights between Bario Airport and Ba’kelalan, Marudi and Miri. – Excerpt from Wikipedia
Picture from Table for Two or more… Read more from her site.
Even the methods of cooking played a huge part. There were very little cooking utensils and the usage of gas or oil to cook was almost unheard of. The Dayaks improvised and used the versatile bamboo plant to cook and carry their meals when they have to go hunting or farming in the deep jungles and cooking was almost always on an open fire. Hence, you have the popular ‘pansoh’ dishes as one of the example. The Dayaks were really resourceful people, they make everything themselves, even their own liquor of fermented rice which they call ‘tuak’. And they enjoy a lot of wild game because that’s where they get their source of protein like fish, wild boar, venison and even insects like sago worms. Be sure to follow closely this MFF event for a recipe on manok pansoh cooked in the oven!
I own this precious pictorial book written by Hedda Morrison called Life in the Longhouse. This book offers an insightful glimpse into the Iban lifestyle and living;
‘Although the Ibans had plenty to eat, they were relatively frugal in their personal habits. They fed well and at special festivals converted great quantities of rice into beer called tuak.’ – Life in A Longhouse
Picture excerpts from the book;
Of course when she wrote this, it was more than 20 years ago. The Ibans now are more equipped with modern ammenities but the cuisines pretty much stayed the same. I wish I could touch more about the cuisines of other ethnic races but that would be a LONG intro so I hope you as readers can fill in this part for me. If you want to know a great site to check out or even TRY out some Sarawak ethnic recipes at home, click here.
As for Chinese cuisines in Sarawak, I shall be touching majorly on the Foochow influences because I’m more familiar with them and they are the majority dialect but that is not to say Sarawak lack cuisines from other Chinese dialects, I would have to again rely on you, readers to educate me. I asked my mother what made Foochow dishes so popular in Sarawak; she simply said that most Foochows, when they can afford it, would prefer to open up small coffee shops and would serve meals that are ready to eat like ‘Kampua’ or ‘Hoongan’. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents owned small shops so I gather this is not far from the truth. Of course we would also have ‘Ang Chiu Mee Suah’ but unlike the Sitiawan cousins, ours is more chicken soup based and not as red. Check out this great article on how Mee Suah noodles are made in Sarikei by House of Annie;
Pulling the mee suah…
Sarawak also has a famous Foochow pastry called ‘Kom Piah‘. To quote Quay Po from Quay Po Cooks;
‘These are flattish buns rather like a bagel and are available with different flavors and a variety of fillings.’
Picture from Quay Po Cooks
The BEST Kom Piah, I think, are found in Sibu and usually comes in either the savoury or sweet type. The sweet ones are without sesame seeds. You eat the savoury ones with minced pork while the sweet ones, my mother used to spread butter and condensed milk on the inside and we kids loved it!!! To read more on ‘Kom Piah’, go to House of Annie and Sarikei Time Capsule.
Sibu also has this dish called ‘Diang Miang Ngu’ which I absolutely love. You can’t really get this anywhere in Sarawak. It’s common in Sibu and Miri but not so in Kuching. It’s made with thin rice noodles on a starchy soup base. Kind of like, porridge but not so either.
To know the meaning of the name of this dish, click here.
In general, Chinese cuisines in Sarawak I feel is very ‘no frills or fancy’ type. When you look at the dishes, they may appear rather plain but we’re big on taste and not letting anything go to waste. For example the ‘Kueh Chap’ dish which is rather similar to ‘Bak Kut Teh’. It’s made with pork and several parts of pork but the difference is, Kueh Chap is eaten with flat rice noodles. You can find a lot of these popular Chinese dishes in humble coffee shops like the much favoured ‘Kolo Mee’. A plate of plain noodles with minced pork and some ‘char siew’ but I remember it being one of the cheapest noodle dish during my school days and students on a tight budget can get by with just this staple.
Kolo Mee. Picture courtesy of CK Go Places
I must confess I do not know much about Malay cuisines in Sarawak but I do know the Malays are excellent bakers. That is not to say that the baking recipes originated from them but rather they are really into baking. For example; the celebrated Kek Lapis (Layer Cake). All the best Kek Lapis I’ve had were made by Malay ladies.
Picture and recipe from HomeKreation
There’s also another cake introduced to me that is fast gaining popularity in Sarawak. It’s called Kek Belachan. Sounds horrid doesn’t it? But fret not…it is a very sweet, dessert-like cake made with commonly; Horlicks and Cocoa powder.
Kek Belachan. Picture and recipe from Sky Blue’s Kitchen
I highly suspect that the famous Sarawak Laksa has Malay origins too, but feel free to educate me.
So, to get the ball rolling, I hope you will take part in this Sarawak month by trying out some home tested recipes such as;
Looking forward to your yummy entries!!!
TO JOIN MFF
- Who can join? ANYONE. Come let’s replicate some (state) food at home!
- Prepare a dish (sweet or savoury) that is from the said state, be it old time favourites, modern goodies or dishes that has been localized. Take a picture of the food or several pictures. If possible, tell us the story about that dish, share with everybody so that others will learn.
- Provide a recipe and remember to credit the source (from books, from internet, from friends or family or maybe it’s your own, BE SPECIFIC). Submissions without stating recipe sources will not be accepted for all forms of submission.
- Submit your entry latest by 30 September 2012 except for Facebook submissions.
a. Prepare a dish (sweet or savory) that is from the Sarawak.
b. Blog about it from 1st September – 30th September 2012
c. Include this caption below your blog post;
Send the following information to this email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the email subject title as “MFF Sarawak”. Emails must reach me latest by 11.59pm (Malaysian time) by 30th September 2012.
Title of Blog: ___________
Name of dish: __________
URL of blog post: ________
Picture : (URL or attachment that is lesser than 500k.)
2. Facebook users
a. Like this FB page
b. Prepare a dish (sweet or savoury) from the state of Sarawak
c. Take a picture and upload it into Facebook (This month’s FB page link)
d. Provide recipe together with the picture
*Bloggers can submit old recipes to FB. Anyone that has once cooked a Sarawakian dish and have the picture and recipe can submit to Facebook. Not necessarily a recently done dish. For a pictorial guide on how to submit, please visit here.
3. Non Facebook users + non bloggers
Email it a picture of the dish together with the recipe to (email@example.com). Emails must reach me latest by 11.59pm (Malaysian time) by 30th September 2012.
A round up will be done for blog entries and emailed in entries. Facebook entries are not included in the round up.