October 11, 2011

Sarawak's Kuih Jala - a longhouse staple

Growing up in Sarawak one cannot be far away from good food. All the so many different races living in the state conjure up a long list of exotic fare.

My grandfather set up a brickyard near the Aup Longhouse area and so we were often invited for Gawai by the Ibans who lived in those longhouses.

One of the most memorable kuih that was offered was the Kuih Jala which was very crispy and sweet and so delicious to a young innocent girl. So the kuih became embedded in my mind almost permanently as a comfort food for more than 40 years.

And I suppose I should really learn to make it myself and give the kuih away as beautiful gifts. My grandmother told me that if one could do something oneself it would be best. Nothing can beat that. That's a good piece of advice.

However it has not been easy to get the recipe as the ladies I approach would always say...there is no recipe. Just "agak agak". And they told me to throw this in or that in...At the end for so many years I never did get to go to class and learn how to make the kuih.

Sometimes these are also called Ants' Nests or Sarang Semut.
And then a few weeks ago I chanced upon an old handbook and got this recipe....Please dear readers let me know how it goes in your kitchen....

l packet of rice flour (about 1 kati)
2 cups water
1 cups sugar (less if you like)- boiled with the above water until about 3/4 cups of syrup
1 1/3 cups cold boiled water.
cooking oil for deep frying
triangular shaped kuih jala

1. Sift rice flour and mix with sugar syrup in a bowl.
2.Add water until the dough is like a batter with a dropping consistency. Leave for 1 to 2 hours.
3. Heat up oil in a kuali and distribute the batter using the mould.

Half moon shaped Iban kuih jala
4. Put batter into jala mould and let the misture drop into the hot oil then circle round till the required thickness and then fold it to the required shope while still in the hot oil.

An Iban lady making kuih jala using a traditional jala mould made from coconut shell.

4. When the rice strands are turning yellow and golden fold the biscuit and take out from the oil.
5. Drain well on kitchen paper.
6. When cool keep in air tight container . The biscuit will keep well for up to three months.

All the photos are copied from flicker etc....


Ann said...

used to think they were made of beehoon. I didn't like this so I didn't bother about learning to make it.

Breast Cancer used to be hush hush, when I was teaching in Binatang, a woman had her breasted removed, and the whole town gossiped about it.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes..I used to think so too...it is some kind of fried bee hoon for me for many years until I saw photos in the 70's!! Shame on me really. And indeed I never saw it being made in the longhouses I went to. May be it is a still a secret!!

BC..yes..Mum used to whisper about it in the same way she whispered about cervical cancer. Did you know that young girls even were told that bad women get cervical cancer? Dirty dirty..lah. After I got to volunteer for Red Cross/Red Crescent I have a maturer undertanding and now am truly a "sympathiser.."

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