Bambangan. Tuhau. Tarap. Losun. Wonihan Leaves. How many of these ingredients ring a bell with you?
After 15 years of food writing, I’m painfully aware and slightly ashamed to realise how little I know about the food of Sabah and Sarawak. After the informative and educational Ropuhan di Tanak Wagu cooking demonstration conducted by Pison Jaujip, I vow to learn as much as I can about the wondrous culinary secrets and traditional recipes of East Malaysia.
Held during the recent Cooler Lumpur Festival, Pison’s Ropuhan di Tanak Wagu event enabled the friendly Kadazandusun chap to show how he prepared several Sabahan recipes using local ingredients from the Land Below the Wind like those mentioned above. (Note: ropuhan means kitchen and tanak wagu means young lad in Kadazandusun)
Having made it his mission to promote the traditional and interpretations of ethnic recipes before they are lost with the passing of time, Pison is a wonderful fount of information and knowledge on the culinary heritage of his native Sabah. Some of the interesting ingredients he showcased include:
According to Pison, Bambangan can be made into pickles or preserved like his Noonsom Bambangan recipe. All you need is to peel the skin of 1 medium half ripe Bambangan and slice the fruit. Cut up the Bambangan seed/kernel into strips or grate finely. Mix both the Bambangan flesh and seed/kernel together with salt to taste. Store in a tightly covered jar for 7-10 days and serve mixture as a condiment to go with rice.
A type of wild ginger, Tuhau (etlingera coccinea) is prized by Sabahans for its high fiber content, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Shaped like a long stem with pinkish-brown hue similar to that of torch ginger, Tuhau is also partaken for its many health benefits: for blood cleansing as well as to reduce high blood pressure.
Pison says tuhau can be sautéed with salted fish, made into spicy sambal or dried floss. Just like lemongrass, the Tuhau’s woody outer layer is peeled away and only the tender, edible inner pith is retained. When cut into smaller pieces, you'd find tuhau excretes fine strands of sticky sap between the cuts. Taste-wise, I think it’s faintly earthy and vegetal; a cross between galangal and rhubarb. Tuhau is usually eaten sautéed with salted fish, made into spicy sambal or shredded to be turned into serunding (deep-fried floss).
For Rinawal Tuhau, Lado Momporok Om Pinaga Kolopis (Picked Tuhau with Bird’s Eye Chillies and Limed Juice - refer middle pix), mix 300g Tuhau (thinly sliced or finely pounded) with 150g lime juice or vinegar and 3-5 bird’s eye chillies (thinly sliced or pounded). Season with salt to taste and serve.
Also known as the common mahang (macaranga bancana), the broad leaves resemble the footprint of a dino to me. Native Sabahans use them to wrap food especially Linopot Linangatan Guol — cooked rice with yam and sweet potato to sustain them when they forage in the jungles or work in the fields.
Like banana leaves, Wonihan Leaves exude a natural, distinct scent that suffused whatever is wrapped in them. They are sturdy, water-proof and bio-degradable; ideal for packing and keeping food fresh.
Here’s a simple Linopot Linangatan Guol recipe shared by Pison Jaujip:
1 cup white hill rice
1 cup purple hill rice
2 cups water
1 medium size yam
1 small sweet potato
4-8 wonihan leaves
Wash and drain both types of rice. Place into rice cooker and add water.
Peel yam and sweet potato. Cut into cubes.
Stir into rice to mix well. Cook rice until yam and sweet potato soften.
Use wooden spoon to mash rice, yam and sweet potato according to desired texture.
Wipe wonihan leaves and place 3 tablespoons or more of rice mixture onto each leaf.
Compress the rice into trapezoid shape then tuck, fold and wrap the wonihan leaf over it to cover snugly.
|Enjoy Linopot Linangatan Guol with assorted traditional accompaniments|
|Sabah also produces its own garam bukit or fine hill salt|
The wrapped, slightly sticky rice certainly whetted our appetite, especially when accompanied by traditional condiments: pickled and sambal tuhau, preserved bambangan, mixed local vegetables with salted fish and crispy tuhau floss.
(Note: Sabah’s hill rice and wonihan leaves are sold at the Borneo Market in Seri Kembangan)
Pison also piqued our interest with a local salad Kinotuan Mirolot Sinapakan Tonsin Sada (mixed vegetables with salted fish) featuring native produce such as Langgangon (white bird’s eye chillies), Topu (torch ginger bud), Losun (Sabah spring onion) and Tonsin Sada (salted fish).
100g losun (cut into 2” pcs)
100g langgangon (sliced)
50g topu (sliced)
50g tuhau (sliced)
50g tonsin sada (cut into chunks)
2 tbsp cooking oil
Salt to taste
Wash, rinse and cut ingredients as mentioned above. Heat oil in pan. Sauté salted fish until golden brown. Add in sliced ingredients. Stir to mix well. Cook for 3 minutes. Season to taste and serve.
The enterprising Pison also makes jam and preserves from his native land like the variety of jams shown here. For more information, follow Pison Jaujip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ropuhanditanakwagu/