Croc meat, anyone?

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Aug 15: Eating crocodile meat has always been a taboo for the natives in Sarawak, especially for the Bidayuhs and the Ibans.

Business partners Jackie Ling and Jason Bong however, are determined to introduce crocodile meat to the masses as an alternative source of protein.

“We started selling crocodile meat at the Kuching Festival (food fair) in 2017, because we do not know what to sell, as other meat is too common. Then we were introduced to someone who asked us to try crocodile meat. So that’s how we started,” the duo told DayakDaily at Kuching Fest, here, yesterday evening.

(from right) Bong and Ling pose in a group photo in front of their stall with Italian tourists at the Kuching Fest.

They said initially, customers thought they were selling chicken meat, as crocodile meat were not sold in the open market then.

It was a challenge to promote their products at first, as the people were sceptic and did not believe the two were selling crocodile meat, they recalled.

“About 70 per cent of the people did not believe that we were actually selling crocodile meat, especially those who never tried it. So we just have to present the crocodile meat to the masses,” Bong said.

When asked on the taste, he said it depends on the size of the crocodiles. Young crocodile meat would taste like chicken and prawn, while the adult crocodile would taste like chicken breast or over-cooked beef.

Bong said they learnt to prepare crocodile meat through trial and error, with friends acting as food tester and playing the role of critiques.

“Initially, we just fry the meat with salt and pepper but last year, we introduced the Chinese-style burger, which is the kompia. This year, we also explore making meatballs and dumplings,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ling explained that they have obtained a licence from the state Forest Department since 2017 to hunt and kill crocodiles in the wild.

“We have the permit to hunt and sell the meat. Of course, we also have a farm, which needed licensing as well,” he continued.

Ling admitted that it was difficult to apply for the licence, which took between two and three months for the application to be submitted and approved.

“When we have the licence, we submitted our business proposal to MBKS (Kuching South City Council) and it was given the green light. It was challenging at first, not many people dared to try it and the council was worried our business might create chaos at Kuching Fest.”

He added that they learnt to process the crocodile meat from a mutual friend, who was an avid hunter for the past three decades.

“The friend brought us to hunt crocodiles, he has been in the industry for over 30 years. Most of the crocodiles we hunted are situated along the Sarawak River up to Matang River.

“Hunting is normally done at night. The heaviest we have caught before weighs about 600kg,” he continued.

Ling said locals also informed them if crocodiles were spotted in their locality and some even helped to catch the crocodiles.

When asked on their customers at Kuching Festival, he said they are mostly Chinese and foreigners.

“For the Chinese, it is considered as herbal meat to cure many diseases such as asthma, but not so much for the natives as they have many taboos (about crocodile meat),” Ling continued. — DayakDaily