December 19, 2009

Wooden Lesong for Belacan Making

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.

Other sources:
1. In 1918 a timber manual mentioned how hard keranji wood is. (Ref :



Ah Ngao said...

at first i thought they make them out of belian wood but later i learned keranji wood is best for impact job - belian breaks on continous pounding.the good yummy keranji fruits are the one with thicker flesh which is really hard to come by.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ah Ngao

Yeah! I have learned about keranji wood ...belian is really good for building and attap. My dream house is actually of belian.

And yes I miss keranji from Kapit....and eating them by the river need to worry about where to throw the skins.

Thanks for dropping by.

Daniel Yiek said...

Keranji wood? Good education.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I did not realise that there has been a good demand for keranji wood...not just for wooden lesong but for flooring etc!!

Looking foward to Astro 301 tomorroW!! hope some one willmake DVDs esp for those who do not have ASTRO...

Ann said...

This is the fruit I was talking about that I tried to trick my non Sarawak husband to pop into his mouth. But I failed to trick him.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahaha....keranji is a nice fruit....I really loved it....

May be still lots in Johore and Singapore.

Ah Ngao said...

yeah,tonight Astro covering Sarikei at 9.00pm - i'll be watching

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Ah Ngao for the reminder. I will definitely be watching Astro....and if you can make some copies of DVD for your friends who do not have Astro if possible!!!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about lesong made from keranji. New generation do not know about it any more.These traditional skills I think are dying.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Anonymous.

I hope we can see more and more people getting an interest in making belacan from scratch.

It will definitely be a pity if it disappears...

fufu said...

can i order few packets of belacan?? i cant get them here in frankfurt ><

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Oh ho....fufu
I am sure if you order from some Bintulu Belacan producers on eBay they would oblige...

May be I will ask around...and get them to courier to you...

Interesting idea.

Frank Juhas said...

It is a very interesting article, like many others you have posted.Unfortunately, the younger Malaysian generations exchange their culture for "Gucci" or worse.You can be proud of yourself for trying to preserve bits and pieces of tradition which are the things of the past.

Keep up with the good work,


Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...