October 23, 2011

Lemang Making

Cooking chickens or other meats in a bamboo stem(which is a larger sized and different species of bamboo actually) is nearly almost easier. It is like putting prepared and marinated meat in a small pot. But cooking rice in a long and narrow bamboo stem is entirely a different kettle of fish if the phrase is appropriate here.

Some tips on making lemang. Lemang is glutinous rice or ordinary non-glutinous cooked in smaller and narrower bamboo stems.

Banana stem - get ready one stem of bananas for the bamboos so that they won't slip. Place this on the ground to get the correct angle for the bamboo stems against the fire.

A good metal plate like the one in the photo will keep the temperature even

Make sure that you fill the bamboo up till only 2/3rds and then top up with enough santan until the top like this: Note that banana leaves are not used when I cook the glutinous rice in this way. I have been told that this method will keep the rice fresh for a longer period.

The bamboos should be "stopped" at the top by crushed tapioca leaves or banana leaves which will add more fragrance to the lemang.

These are the smaller bamboos to make your lemang. Stand them neatly on the metal plate. The banana stem should help prevent  burning of the bamboo ends and keep the bamboo stems at a correct angle. A slow fire is always better than a hot one because it would mean that the bamboo would burn and the rice would be uncooked.

The best lemang can last a few days. Use a sharp parang to peel/slice off the bamboo's outer skin until the inner whiter skin is seen. This is indeed a tricky skill. However after this peeling  it is easier to split the skin of the bamboo. They also look nicer on the table. Or you can crack open the bamboo and serve the rice on half of the bamboo.

Making lemang is quite a soul searching process. One does not do it every day. When cooking lemang for family and friends you have time to reflect on the goodness of the earth and the blessings of God. The cooking is natural over a simple fire which can even be started by two stones and a little bit of tinder from the aping tree.

Yes...you continue to sing (never whistle) in your mind about how green is your valley and how bountiful is your land.
When people can feel this close to their farms they are entirely together with their mother earth. How tragic it is if they have to lose their land on which they have been living for hundreds or thousands of years.

(P/s . The best place to make lemang like these is Rh Aling in Ulu Medamit where my children's paternal ancestors have already planted the different species of bamboo and prepared land for both glutinous rice and non glutinous rice for an abundant life. Coconuts have been grown here for more than 6 generations. Now the 36 families living together in a harmonious longhouse community can just reach out at any time to cut down a bamboo stem and pluck a few coconuts for easy rainforest cooking at its best. Unseen Asia!! Not on TLC or AFC)


John Borneo said...

this is my favourite post so far.. it is a combination of the techniques of modern food blogging and a showcase of traditional methods.. and ending with a subliminal message about the current state of indigenous people in malaysia.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi John Borneo
Thanks for the compliments. Yes the current state of the indigenous people and their land in Malaysia is rather heart rending. The waiting period for justice to be carried is long and tedious.

Hope one day soon you get some of the best lemang in this part of the world to eat!! We must not let the art of making Iban lemang die out.

Ann said...

I went to a feast in Bau, a Bidayu one. lots of yummy food.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes Bidayuh food is very nice. I was in Mt. Singgai last Sunday..Will write/blog about it so that you can see the wonderful sights there.

Ann said...

when you come to New Zealand, you must go to the glaciers. You need only walk one hour plus. whereas in USA, you have to travel a long time. If you like, you can take a helicopter ride.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann...Yes definitely I will try to see the glaciers. One hour walking should be fine...Thanks. May be no helicopter ride for me.