There are lots to see and savour at the Binutulu Tamu.
This lady selling sengkalan (chopping boards) and belacan lesong caught my eye.
The wooden lesong were being sold for 135 ringgit each and the sengkalan for 30 ringgit each. The wood is from keranji tree which is very rare nowadays. So the price is higher than normal.
Although some craftsmen have sold cheaper hard wood lesong for belacan making at even 50 ringgit one would know that they have used poorer quality wood. Keranji wood is one of the hardest wood found in Sarawak.
And so for this lady it is not a bad income for the day if she sells all. The men she came with were having a beer some where. According to her keranji trees used to bear good fruits but unfortunately due to climatic changes many older keranji trees have not been bearing fruits for many years. Also according to her the commercial plants have also cut down most of the fruit trees to make way for palm oil.
The Keranji is indeed a very hardwood found near longhouses and riverine areas in Bintulu.It produces a good sweet sourish fruit which used to be a popular fruit for the indigenous and especially the Ibans but these days the trees are not fruiting at all.
The wooden lesong is popular. People do wish to buy a good sengkalan too especially if they know for sure what kind of wood is used and they can always buy to keep for future use. Keranji wood is good and in the future there might be no more keranji left she said.
How to make belacan
Ingredients : bubuk ( 6 kg)
salt (4 kg)
l kg sago
some Chinese red yeast
Pound the cleaned bubuk in the lesong.
Mix all the rest of the ingredients together.
Dry the pounded mixture in a large tray in the sun for as long as you can until it is completely dried. Cover well to prevent flies settling on the drying belacan.
Pound the belacan again until a smooth paste.
Dry again for 6 hours until all moisture is gone.
Keep in an air tight container.
1. In 1918 a timber manual mentioned how hard keranji wood is. (Ref : http://www.archive.org/stream/manualofthetimbe030145mbp/manualofthetimbe030145mbp_djvu.txt)