Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fine side of Borneo cuisine

KUCHING is where you can savour a variety of international cuisines from Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, European to Thai as well as fast food and oodles of noodles.

How about local cuisine? Chinese and Malay culinary arts are well represented but not local indigenous cuisine.

A restaurant, uniquely called The.Dyak, aims to fill that gap. Just opened late last year, The.Dyak serves restaurant-quality version of Iban and Orang Ulu dishes.

Many ingredients come from the fields and jungles, including bamboo shoots, cassava leaves, wild ginger shoots and a selection of the many edible ferns that sprout in the farm clearings.

It isn’t just the ingredients. The cooking methods too originate from the hunters’ camp fires and floor-level hearths in the longhouses.

Pork can be grilled or fried — anybody can do that — but it can also be preserved by controlled fermentation to make kasam.

Chicken-in-bamboo may be one of Sarawak’s iconic dishes, featured in many menus when “traditional fare” is called for, but there’s more than one way of braising a chook!


The restaurateur, himself a Dayak or Dyak, can draw on family lore that goes back generations, plus clearly expressed advice from a large circle of relations.

Dyak is the old-fashioned spelling of a term meaning “non-Muslim Borneo native”, which came up in the 18th and 19th Century.

This is the restaurant’s main theme, “with touches of Manhattan” to quote the owner. A few “longhouse touches” here and there don’t interfere with elegance or comfort.

We’re not “playing Dayak” here — the waiters aren’t costumed in beads and feathers, diners aren’t made to sit cross-legged on a mat either!

Wall hangings and old photos demonstrate a proud family heritage of artists, travellers and leaders.

Some of the decor feature Stambak Ulu, a famous longhouse in the Saribas district. Heirlooms like huge stoneware jars, antique brasswares or priceless hand-woven textiles displayed here and there make the point, ever so subtly.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Fine side of Borneo cuisine

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