December 30, 2015

Local Delights Series No.2 : Cooking in Bamboo Stems

The Ibans and most of the other ethnic groups of Sarawak use bamboo stems to cook meat, vegetables, and fish in lieu of a cooking pot. This could be the result of the life style during the ancient days when cooking pots (of metal and clay) were not available. The Ibans do not have a pottery culture. Brass ware came after the Chinese started to trade in Borneo in the 11th Century or later. Pottery was started perhaps only after the Chinese settled down after the arrival of Islam in 1400.

Cooking in Bamboo is very much a popular culture now amongst the the Ibans.

However not all bamboos can be used for cooking. The best bamboo used as a vessel or receptacle for cooking is the young payang bamboo which measures an average of 2 feet from node to node and the thickness is just nice. Payang is good in retaining heat besides giving the dish a special aroma.

Most Ibans when they start constructing their longhouses would plant a few groves of payang. This is very pro-active and a sustainable manner of living.

Two Iban ladies at Matop Methodist Church, Julau, extracting pork from bamboo stems.

Food cooked in bamboo sheaths is very delicious and no oil is used. More often than not, crushed tapioca leaves are mixed with the meat. A ball of fresh tapioca leaves is used to stop the soup from leaking. All the juices are from the meat or fish and the tapioca leaves.

The fire is usually made from wood and an open fire place is always a good place to meet up with friends and nice conversation.

In a way, the men would look after the cooking of the food in bamboo while the womenfolk continue to prepare other dishes in the kitchen.

However serving is done by the women folks.

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