July 29, 2011

Labi labi (River Tortoise Claypot Style)

Selangau along the road from Miri to Sibu is a must stop for a lunch break or a r and r break. I like taking my children along this way and stop at some of the shops and the tamu. The toilet at the tamu is clean and there is lots of water for washing...and even for a quick bath!! All you need is pay 20 sen to the lady in charge. A nice chat is also on the offing.

And as for food...there's halal and non-halal food available.

There are two better seafood restaurants to choose from. I don't mind either one and will only eat when the outlet has less people and no smokers. However regrettably there is no "No Smoking" sign in Selangau.

One delightful dish to order is Labi labi in Claypot. The prices range from RM 10 to RM50 depending on your budget and the number of people in your group. Labi labi or river tortoise is about RM38 per kg in the market.

Foochow recipe of river tortoise - braised in a light wine sauce in claypot.
The tortoise meat is cubed and braised in a wine sauce.
Spring onions and ginger will balance the taste.
Onions and some celery help to enrich the sauce.
A nice layer of cartilage - the best part of the tortoise.
TheChinese love this dish in particular. Elders are usually served this dish whenever the families can afford to pay for the freshly caught labi-labi. Apparently the cartilage is good for bones and muscles. The soup is energy and health giving.

Steamed in expensive wine the labi-labi becomes an Imperial Food fit for a Chinese Emperor. It is one dish that spins tales of longevity and strength.

And I must say..having labi labi meat cooked in bamboo with lots of lemon grass and ginger you get a special treat..The flesh becomes so tender you don't have to bite it at all. No wonder our very senior elders love the dish.

Cheers for the day!!!


wenn said...

i never had tortoise before.

Anonymous said...

ahaa...this my fav ! many2 years ago,labi-labi was openly sold at Kuching weekend market at Satok( during the 80's) - after that got banned from selling( so-called-protected ) same with turtle eggs, the public cannot buy or eat them but those vip can - phew !
if too old a labi-labi,the meat'd be more chewy,preferbly those around 3 kg size,agreed Sarawakiana ?

- Ah Ngao

Anonymous said...

Is labi labi a protected species. Otherwise it will be crawling its way to extinction!!!

Anonymous said...

i think labi-labi is not protected becoz orang asli eats them,those not so asli also eats them and in the town or city,i heard you can also order labi-labi at seafood joints.anyway,i think theres nothing to worry about,we still have a lot type species of tortoise. any enterpreneur can star a labi-labi farm,just like those katak or frog farm.

Ah Ngao

Anonymous said...

The readers should be aware that Sarawak Forestry has included all soft-shelled turtles (Labi-labi) in its protected species list. Please do not eat or encourage those around you to eat them.

Anonymous said...

how many calories after eating? haha

Ann said...

A nice layer of cartilage -when I saw your Facebook photo, from this photo, I recognised what it was. My mum used to braised it with peanuts.

Is it turtle or tortoise?

Ann said...

when I was in primary school, we had turtle eggs. I am told now, it is illegal to collect the eggs.

My bro works for Forestry Sarawak. You better bribe me, otherwise I report you heheheh

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Wenn..this is probably a very delicious to those who grew up in the rural areas. Those in the urban areas who like it must have acquired the taste from dining experiences when travelling. In those days long ago some of us had only wild meat we could get from the rivers and the jungles.....Try this when you have a chance travelling to unusual places. Vietnam and Southern China and even Taiwan also serve this dish (of course away from conservationists...pardon me)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao...I understand all these ...you had a good time eating soft shelled tortoise in the old days like I did...Yes it is true..many of these are home reared and I know a few farmers in Bintulu and Miri rear them. They do grow very fast.....cheers. I miss the old days meeting all sorts of unusual meats hanging from some beams in the markets....

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous..labi labi is protected but there are many homes rearing them for the food industry. They breed well too and I am not so sure about the extinction (some people do say so) but even in the streams around Miri an enterprising man can collect about six on rainy days...big and small ones!! So it really depends on how fast the enterpreneurs log the forest legally and illegally. And how fast people eat the labi labi..if we have an understanding with nature and eat only what we need...nothing will become extinct. Greediness is the cause of extinction of most species...or dieseases. God creates. Man disposes.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao...yes lots of labi labi farms as well as talipia farms...I hope more seafood enterpreneurs will invest in more such farms and we pay less...

Thinking of Pay Less Seafood restaurants....hahahahah

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...Thanks for mentioning this...I am afraid it is not so much the people who encourage others to eat food like labi labi...in some places the poor have only labi labi and other free jungle food to eat...and they are illiteratet too.
In other places people with money pay a lot...leading to black market of exotic meat...I believe in rehabilitation programmes...and even commercialisation....rear more labi labi....

Sarawakiana@2 said...

hahaha Anonymous...I don't eat seafood and labi labi....I only took the photos...by the way..the cholesterol level cannot be measured after eating labi labi once in ten years....My friends don't eat labi labi that often too...only when passing Selangau and when there is labi labi...that makes it once in ten years?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann...labi labi is river tortoise..soft shelled types..I understand the Cantonese recipe with peanuts is really good. Yet to try that...but I am not really a labi labi eater. May be one day I will try it.

Farm reared labi labi in Sabah costs RM35 per kg...actually I have never seen those shells myself. Will take photos one day if I have a chance.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann...I don't eat turtle eggs as well..there is a special "chor" smell and the gluey-ness of the egg is difficult for me.

I think I have to defend myself as a photographer of cooked labi labi...I did not kill it and no one can prove I ate it !!!

I will bribe you with a nice fish caught in a pond..or 10 fresh coconuts from my trees....LOL.

Ann said...

The joke is when the inspector comes, serve him a bowl of what ever food he is inspecting, then when he finished eating , tell him what he had eaten. That will hush his mouth. LOL

This is a real anecdote. When I was young, the Foochows used to tease that we, Cantonese ate dogs, which I don't deny .

One day, a non Cantonese was given some dog meat without telling her. The next day, she was asked what her fav meats were, first something common, second, the meat we ate yesterday. Then they told her it is dog meat.

Moral of the story, don't tell a person what meat it is, he/she will enjoy it. LOL

I was joking with you only. We photographers go to extremes to take our photos.I think I ate more things than you have. LOL Labi labi cleanse the blood.

You know the term FIONG SAN in Singapore? FIONG meaning let go,
SAN meaning alive.(FIONG is Cantonese, Mandarin is FAN)

I was very surprised when I went to live in Singapore, there are so many Buddhist and BAI SEN people.

Here I learn about FIONG SAN. The tortoise is often use, if a person is sick or bad luck, they go to the temple to buy a tortoise, the temple people will write something in paint at the stomach plate of the tortoise. This tortoise is then taken to a pond or lake and FIONG SAN, let go alive. They think the person who picks up the tortoise and takes it home will get some of the bad luck. (Isn't it such evil thing to do?

My friends tell me, never ever pick up a tortoise even if there is no writing, they say the writing in paint may have come off.

The Singapore Govt was dissuading people to do this as too many FIONG SAN will increase the tortoise population and upset the balance of the ecology.

Guess you didn't hear this from Christian Sarawak.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ann....Yes..in the newspapers we used to read exceptional stories of Fiong San...but I never thought of eating those hard shelled turtle. I have always thought that those are inedible...and "saintly" for religious purposes...the labi labi is different. I have always been told by the Ibans that they are for the table...LOL....

thanks for the anecdotes...Most interesing.