Mouth-Watering Dishes of “Land Of The Hornbill”

People say you can learn about a culture in a different country through their food, and I don’t doubt the truth behind that statement. Although, I didn’t have to go to a different country to taste the authenticity and diversity of another ethnic’s food. Sarawak, the “Land Of The Hornbill” certainly caters for the curious, even one from Peninsular Malaysia such as myself.

There are many similar dishes that can be found in Peninsular and in Sarawak but there are also some very distinct type of dishes that originates from Sarawak and are different for first timers. Nevertheless, Sarawak dishes are still delicious and rest assured, completely edible.

Home-cooked Food

While I was in Sarawak, I visited many places, especially the cooperative villages and the tourism industry they have for the public. There, we were always served plentiful of food and the most popular amongst us all was definitely the popular “Stir-fried Midin with Shrimp Paste” or known as Sayur Midin Goreng Belacan in Malay.

Sarawak Food

Top right : Stir-fried Midin with Shrimp paste

Most of us would be spooning that into our plates first before anything else.

What is Midin? Midin (also known as Milin or Bilin) is a type of jungle fern that can be found in tropical South East Asian countries. Midin can also be found in Peninsular Malaysia although, since you can find abundance of Midin in Sarawak, it has become a very familiar vegetable dish at homes and restaurants and very popular in Sarawak. When stir-fried with shrimp paste, it is more aromatic and delicious, especially eaten with fragrant rice.

Sarawak Food

Then there’s the Ayam Pansuh or literally translated as “Chicken Cooked in Bamboo”. Just as the translation suggests, the chicken meat is cooked in bamboo that is covered with tapioca leaves from the cassava plant. Seasoning is added with water stuffed into the bamboo before the bamboo is placed next to the fire. This dish is usually prepared for celebrations or festivals.

Kuih Jantung Pisang

The Kek Jantung Pisang is a traditional cake made from generations. Using flour, baking powder, eggs and sugar, to be cooked in frying pan will get a finalized cake that tastes sweet and spongy. Now, the making however, would require a lot of patience because a medium-sized plate cake will take nearly 2 hours to make. The making of this layered cake needs you to be flipping, taking out, putting in and repeating the same process until you get the desired size for you and your family. Hence why this cake is quite pricey and is also said to be the origin of the famous Sarawak’s Kek Lapis or Layered Cake.

Other famous Sarawak dishes? How about the Sarawak Laksa or Kolok Mee (noodle)? You have got to come to Sarawak to try the authentic food yourself!

Commercialized Food

There are quite a number of commercialized food available but the most popular is definitely the Sarawak Kek Lapis or Layered Cake.

Nowadays, the layered cake comes in different flavours and colours. The cheaper cake, made with margarine is cheaper, but this is also because the taste is slightly bland and it doesn’t last very long. The more expensive cake, made with butter is slightly more expensive but the taste is sweeter and richer. They are also more filling than the cheaper version.

Have you tried Sarawak Layered Cake before?

kek lapis making

In the making…

What Makes Sarawak Dishes Special?

I believe that when you make something with love, patience and make sure it’s clean, the food will be delicious to the palate, and leave the people eating them happy. Good food will bring good memories.

What truly makes the dishes in Sarawak special is probably the diversity to it and the times they were made – during festival like the Gawai, or when a family welcomes a new member (baby). The hospitality of the locals also plays a part in making this “food” journey more fun and filling.