November 23, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights: Ikan Buntal

Photo of Yellow Puffer fish , taken in Lingga.

These are yellow ikan buntal or the yellow buntal. According to the locals, they are very delicious. The buntal is one of the few fishes in Asia which have yellow varieties. Some buntal are white with black dots on the body.

Ikan buntal kuning are prized by the locals and it is found mainly in the Second division of Sarawak. Its roe, when salted, is great sought after by most Ibans, and other Sarawakians.

The salted buntal or pufferfish is another local delicacy . It is most abundantly found around Spaoh, Second Division of Sarawak. The fish is the mascot of Spaoh.  Every year there is even a Ikan Buntal Festival in Spaoh.

November 22, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : Wood Ears

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Local wood ears are found all over Sarawak.

They are usually used to flavour vegetable dishes in Iban cuisine, especially in the longhouse.

Very often, the native vegetable sellers already match the vegetables in a platter for their customers. And in fact it is a nice customer service because the customers just need to buy the combined vegetables which are already sliced and cut, take home, wash and then cooked.

Wood ears are normally boiled with pumpkin leaves, sweet young corn.

November 21, 2017

Sibu Tales: Recipe from Bukit Lan

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Some time ago I re-connected with my cousin who  was married to a guy in 24 Acres, or Bukit Lan. We did not meet all the years she was bringing up a family. She was in Sibu and later I was in Miri. I found a photo of hers on a page in Google with her son who was then working in KL. What a delightful find.

We later met up when she and her sister decided to visit Miri.

She told me that she learned a lot about cooking traditional dishes while in Bukit Lan. Her in laws made dieh bian, fresh noodles etc. To her making dieh bian is simple, and today she often helps with church activities, producing kuihs for tea!! How dedicated she is to the Methodist Church. It is good to know that her sons are all very godly and that she is blessed by having a son who is a pastor.

Whenever I see the Foochow dieh bian, or UFO, I would think of her. 

(Recipe in English,simplified and adapted from " Rejang Delights 3"  by Yii Ming Yuek - available in the Methodist Book Room in Sibu at RM13.00)

1. Blend A and then add in B

A. 5 0z soy bean (soaked for 4 hours)
2 oz cold cooked rice
12 oz water

B. 250 g rice flour
1 1/2 tbsp fish/squid gravy
2. Add in some chopped chives


150 gm minced pork mixed with 1 tsp corn flour

6 small onions finely sliced
1 tbsp chopped garlic

some light soy sauce and sugar.

Heat up 4 tbsp of oil. Saute sliced onions until golden brown. Dish up.
Saute chopped garilic until fragrant. Add the minced pork. Cook until dry and then mix in fried onions. 

Heat oil for deep frying. Heat the round ladle for a while. Remove. Fill the ladle 1/3 full with the batter and then add the filling. Add some more batter till full.

Deep fry in medium heat till golden brown. If the oil is too hot the skin of the fritters would be dark brown and smoke will fill up your kitchen!!

Your UFO will float beautifully. Have a few good turns a some quality checks. That's the satisfying part of the cooking. Drain well on nice kitchen paper. Serve piping hot.

The best part of growing up in the rural parts of Sarawak is having cousins getting together and learning to make traditional kuihs.

November 20, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : Fresh Terubok from Lingga

According to local legends the male terubok can change sex from male to female. Kids used to say that the terubok caught in the sea is male, but when caught in the river it is a female.
And today, Scientific studies have shown that the male Terubuk or big-mouthed shad, aka tenualosa toli, can change into a female when it reaches maturity.
Scientifically the terubok is thus a pro­tandous hermaphrodite, which means the male can evolve into a female when it reaches maturity.
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Photo by Sarawakiana. Terubok at Lingga, Sarawak.
There are two breeding seasons per year and terubok is found in abundance at the estuaries of Batang Lupar, Batang Lassa.
Lingga a small town in Sarawak has adopted the terubok as its town symbol.
Terubok is valued by Sarawakians for its roe which is highly prized and priced. Its roe is sold separately and in the salted form usually. Tourists and locals alike buy the roe as gits for their loved ones. It is also commonly believed that the roes have aphrodisiac properties.
There are many ways of cooking fresh terubok : steaming with a lot of ginger and chillies, deep frying, shallow frying, and barbequing. Wrapped in leaves and cooked over a slow fire is a great way of eating the bony but sweet fish is probably the best way.

November 19, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : Kasam Tapah

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Tapah is a big fish in the Baram and Rajang rivers of Sarawak. In the past there were enormous supply of this delectable fish. Usually tapah is caught by fishing hooks as they are fairly big in size. Good size tapah weigh more than 4 kg while smaller ones can be only  1 or 2 kg. Some fishermen had in the passed caught tapah weighing more than 40 kg. In fact one local story even claims that a tapah had eaten a baby boy in the Baram.

Having said all that, the tapah is a good fish to eat. The flesh is white when cooked and it is very tasty. Tapah found in the Baram and the Rajang are darker in colour and because they swim more they are not that fat. Some fishermen also claim that their skin is thicker. Tapah is a scale-less fish.

The Foochows usually steam tapah steaks with ginger, and some Foochow red wine.

Tapah steaks can be fried and they taste good too.

In West Malaysia, the Chinese look for Wong Lim, 鲶 meaning yellow tapah which has 3 rigid white lines from body to tail. It has a yellowish and slimy body. This variety is found in muddy rivers and has more fat according to local fishermen.

The Ibans like to cook tapah in bamboo and any excess would be made into salted tapah or kasam tapah.

Salted tapah is fried with lemongrass like in the photo. It is really a nice dish and people would always ask for extra serving of rice.

November 18, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : Paku Ikan with Pork

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When you have guests and your only vegetable is paku ikan at the back of your house by the river side, you can always create a lovely dish with pork, mushrooms and paku ikan, a recipe I took from Google and I have cooked it a few times as suggested by the chef..

When visitors dropped by and my friend and I decided to cook with what I have in the fridge. Frozen pork was taken out and thawed as we foraged for some paku. The two of us told each other that our elders would have done the same thing and friends dropped by in the olden days. They would have taken a look at what they had in the backyard and rustle up a meal in no time.

I had some kasam ensabi and kasam babi. Out of the kasam ensabi I had a lovely soup with pork bones. The kasam babi  was cooked with kechala flowers and kechala shoots, also from the backyard.

A fresh fish was obtained at the tamu not far from my house and we had it barbequed on banana leaves out in the backyard. Fresh fish is nice and easy to prepare.

We made a salad with big onions, chillies, kechala flowers, dried prawns and slices of cucumber.

A huge omelette was made with some chives growing in the pot.

that's for a fast dinner with good friends who "don't mind anything". The paku ikan and pork dish was a winner......

It was a happy get together.

November 16, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : Rojak Sauce

For a long time many of my friends wonder why the rojak sauce recipe is hard to get.

Many cooks say that their recipes are family secrets and they would not give to any one. I had a hard time to get some one to give me a recipe. In fact a few times I was so broken hearted because I just could not make my own sauce for a plate of rojak I might want to serve at home.

Well today, Google does not keep any secret.

Here is one simple recipe, which gives you a rojak dipping sauce, without any cooking.

2 tbsp shrimp paste/belacan
3 tbsp tamarind mix (1tbsp fresh tamarind juice with 2 tbsp warm water)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ tbsp. white sugar
1 stalk of chili padi (optional)
2 tbsp toasted peanuts

All you need is just to mix or blend these ingredients together.
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My photo of a nice rojak in Miri.

Another recipe from Google is this one.

1. Pour the water into the saucepan and place it over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to low. 2. Add the dark brown sugar to the saucepan and stir with a whisk until it dissolves.3.Add the oyster sauce, shrimp paste and tamarind paste to the saucepan and continue whisking for two minutes. 4.Stir the Scotch bonnet pepper into the contents of the saucepan and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes. 5.Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool for 30 minutes or to room temperature before tossing with rojak.

things you will need: 

Sarawakian Local Delights: Ikan Buntal

Photo of Yellow Puffer fish , taken in Lingga. These are yellow ikan buntal or the yellow buntal. According to the locals, they are ver...