Irresistible Dayak food at 397 metres above sea level

Dayak dishes at Bung Podad summit.

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By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, March 9: Care to try authentic Dayak kampung dishes, all cooked with firewood at 397 metres above sea level and watch the clouds go by below as you eat?

The food includes fresh, hot local coffee or tea from clean water boiled using firewood as well.

No shortcuts such as using a gas stove to cook like what you get from most restaurants or cafes in the cities nowadays.

However, there is a catch. You will have to hike or climb some 1,302 feet up to enjoy the food and the view, but rest assured, it is worth every drop of sweat.

Trust me, the aroma and taste of these food and beverages are totally different.

I discovered this during one of my weekly hiking trips when my friends and I decided to visit Bung Podad (Mount Podad), not just for climbing but to try local Bidayuh fare.

Furthermore, it is my opinion that a good cup of hot coffee or tea enjoyed on a summit, surrounded by tall green shady trees and crisp mountain air, is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Located just one hour drive from Kuching city, Bung Podad is under the care of the Kampung Peros Development And Security Committee (JKKK) in Krokong, Bau.

Well covered with primary forest, rich in flora and fauna, the site is also a historical place where it was once the Gurkha Elite Army Platoon camp site between 1965-1968.

Aerial view from Bung Podad (Mount Podad) summit at 1,302 feet.

The road into the village towards the community hall where visitors gather is very well maintained, hence no worries about driving there, although it is advisable to carpool as parking spaces are limited.

Upon arrival at the Kampung Peros community hall, registration is mandatory before the fun can begin.

The first activity we had was a pre-hike warm-up session with guide Michael Dihoi Nyawen to loosen up our muscles.

Michael explaining to visitors about Bung Podad’s trail.

Michael, 66, a former Penghulu (community leader) of the area said the warm-up is a must to avoid leg cramps, adding that although Bung Podad is only 1,302 feet high, one must not be complacent.

After a few minutes of stretching, he gave us a short briefing on the trail, followed by dividing the visitors into few groups before we started the climb.

Michael added that every guide is equipped with a walkie-talkie for efficient communication between the guides along the trail and JKKK members waiting at the community hall.

Bung Podad is a steep climb but there are several rest stops along the way.

Bung Podad is a steep climb but there are several rest stops along the way, such as Pungu Kunuk (250m), Ayun Bokah (500m), Dien Noem (750m), and Pinomu Kima (900m) just before the challenging and vertical section to reach Ban Sama Kaien (1150m).

As the last pit stop before reaching the destination, Ban Sama Kaien offers nice views of the surrounding areas, but it is not the summit.

After taking a short breather, we continued climbing for another 200m before I finally saw our Sarawak and Malaysia flags flying proudly at the summit – quite the spectacular sight!

DayakDaily writer and friends at the Bung Podad summit.

Overall, a slow and steady approach combined with at least one litre of water per person should make this hike achievable for almost everyone.

At this point is also where I could smell the scent of burning firewood and I was welcomed with warm smiles and greetings from the local villagers who have been waiting to serve us coffee, tea and biscuits while we rest and wait for our lunch.

It is known that cooking using firewood requires longer time, thus the villagers were already at the summit by 7am to prepare for our arrival.

I saw several tubes of pansuh ayam (chicken in bamboo) and fish wrapped in aluminum foil being slowly cooked over the wood fire, while the villagers began to prepare vegetables and ferns collected from the jungle.

Dayak dishes at Bung Podad summit.

There were also other Dayak dishes consisting of bamboo shoots and kuchai; kampung style amak jagong (baby corn with mushrooms); daun timun (cucumber shoots); daun ubi (tapioca leaves); kedondong belacan; umai sambal pedas and rice wrapped in buan leaves.

Mind you, all of us climbers had second or third helpings!

As they were preparing the dishes, Kampung Peros crew members Emelda Sinbeng and Annie Chia said they usually reached the summit at 7am because a group of them had to carry up clean treated water to make coffee and tea before visitors arrive.

Kampung Peros crew members Emelda Sinbeng and Annie Chia
One of the Kampung Peros crew helping his colleagues to boil water with a wood fire at the Bung Podad summit.

If there are visitors who have pre-booked lunch, the crew will have to hike up as early as 6am because not only do they have to bring up all the fresh ingredients to the summit, cooking the food over a wood fire and in bamboo tubes will take a longer time, so they must be there much earlier.

Meanwhile, after some two hours of rest savouring the wide open view, awesome food and countless cups of coffee, we began our descent.

If you ready to rise to a challenge for simply delicious good food, then give Bung Podad a go.

Hiking fees including a local guide, coffee/tea and biscuits is RM15 per person; and an additional RM25 for those who wish to eat a prepared lunch at the summit.

Those interested may contact Kampung Peros JKKK coordinator Joseph Jiep Sayon at 013-8035516.

An introduction to this place as another eco tourism spot can help conserve nature and provide favourable active socio-economic avenues for the local villagers.

Villagers in Kampung Peros, Krokong selling Dayak food and vegetables at the village community hall.

On weekends, visitors may also buy locally sourced and homegrown vegetables such as midin, tapioca leaves, terung asam, ginger and much more in the community hall.

Indeed, looking at the way the villagers operate from beginning to the end, Kampung Peros JKKK is one of the most systematic and well organised committees when it comes to managing visitors to Bung Podad, with their sense of responsibility and strong teamwork. — DayakDaily