Putting a contemporary twist on Sarawak’s culinary recipes from at least 100 years ago

Chef Achang prepares the Kiput tribe's Daging Anyok during the Culinary Heirloom Dinner last night (Oct 2, 2022).

By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, Oct 2: Have you ever wondered about what was as well as the taste of popular local food which the people of Sarawak ate at least 100 years ago?

I am not talking about the famous Sarawak Laksa and Kolo Mee of this era, but the food that our ancestors made during their days especially when they were practising the traditional hearth cookery.

It is definitely very rare for the present generation to get a hold of these foods anymore but the Culinary Heirloom Dinners event which is taking place at Telang Usan Hotel here is offering palates a taste of Sarawak’s culinary history.

The event features nine contemporary dishes based on Sarawak’s 100-year-old culinary recipes such as “Luang Senanum” from the Kelabit tribe, “Rojak Kai Kin Kon and Sundried Sotong with Lopet” from the Hakka Chinese, “Pulli Chore and Murungeh Curry” from the Sarawak Indians, “Daging Anyok” from the Kiput, “A-not-so-humble pie” from the British, “Smoked Venison and Rattan Shoots Kerabu” from the Kenyah, “Botok Telur Masin” from the Malay people, “Laru and Masek Barek” from the Kayan and rice milk ice-cream with baked over fire short bread inspired by the Lun Bawang tribe.

The man behind the meals is Sarawakian Chef Achang Libat, 31, who worked alongside the custodians of the culinary heirlooms and carefully executed the experiments to bring the food to the table.

“Basically, my contemporary take on the traditional food was to shed light on the State’s cultural heritage which has been forgotten and is no longer being practised in the present setting.

“So this way (Culinary Heirloom Dinners) will allow people to dine and also learn about the traditional dish,” he told reporters at the dinner last night (Oct 2).

He further said one of the significant aspects in the preparation of these traditional dishes was to consider that the old generation used to make preserved food due to the absence of refrigeration to store food and maintain its quality.

“So this sort of things are quite meticulous and I don’t think the people are doing this now but through this dinner, we can show them that the tradition is still alive,” he added.

Marian Chin.

Meanwhile, the Culinary Heirloom Dinners curator Marian Chin said the event aims to preserve the technique, taste and nostalgia in preparing food like those who came before.

“Our traditional dishes are already 100 per cent at their best. So we cannot destroy that. We have to innovate from that stage, from 100 per cent perfection.

“So what I’m trying to do is to get the young people interested in our culinary past because if we understand the history of our food, then it is like creating a new crop of chefs that cook from understanding where those tastes and techniques are coming from,” she said.

Those who wish to embark on the 9-course culinary odyssey may dine in at Telang Usan Hotel from 7pm to 9.30pm on Oct 9, Oct 16 and Oct 23.

The ticket price for a night costs RM150 per person. Bookings and inquiries may be done via WhatsApp only at 014-6820761 and 019-8579576.

The Culinary Heirloom Dinner is a prelude to the flagship of the first ever food-over-fire festival in Malaysia with the theme “The Hearth Brought to Light” which will take place at Old Courthouse from Nov 25 to Dec 4 and concurrently at Fort Margherita from Dec 2 to Dec 4.

The upcoming event is jointly organised by Yayasan Hasanah, ArtsFAS (Arts for All Seasons), Ministry of Finance and WhatMatters.

Luang Senanum from the Kelabit tribe.
Botok Telur Masin from the Malay people.
The Lun Bawang’s rice milk ice cream accompanied by baked over fire short bread.
Not-so-humble Pie from the British.

— DayakDaily