What would an Iban family do when by chance they caught a huge river fish when travelling along the river?
They would stop at a ford or a river bank and find a wild banana tree (which is quite common in Ulu Medamit) and start cooking the fish even if they had no pot!! An Iban man would always travel with a parang tied to his waist to this day especially when travelling in the jungle.
This year we got a sea fish (from Jerudong) which was too big for any cooking pot as we wanted to eat it whole. So my sister- in -law suggested the traditional method of roasting the fish wrapped in layers of banana stems.
Here are the steps:
The huge fish head peeking out of the layers of banana stem.
The "Iban Oven" made from an oil drum. I always feel comfortable whenever the men chop wood early in the morning. The chop chop sounds bring a lot of security and family emotions.
At the end of about two hours...the fish does not smell of smoke at all. All the juices of the fish are still in the fish and the fish tastes good in its original "skin". The marinade is simple - salt and pepper with a bit of fresh chillies and lots of lemon grass.
The fish never gets burnt cooked this way because when the stems are brown the fish is cooked. This is really ingenious of the Ibans for cooking a fish like this...give them a fire and a fish and they can find a banana trunk...wallah....a fish fit for a king!!
Advantages: slow cooking (while the women folk wash clothes by the riverside) and the fire can keep the sandflies away. No cooking oil is needed. (Cooking oil is getting too expensive). It is a healthy way of cooking and the part of the fish can be wrapped up in banana leaves and taken home. Picnicking by the river side is romantic and provides bonding time for the family...feasting over a well cooked fish meal like this....No need to take care of the fish while it is cooking over a smouldering fire.
Hope you like this way of traditional trekkers' kind of cooking in the jungle.......
(P/s if young banana shoots are well treated in a special way they are actually very tasty - another time...stay tune)