The Kadazandusun community makes a variety of traditional alcoholic drinks.
First, there is tapai, derived from rice fermented for a couple of weeks and then diluted with water.
This is a very simple and common way of making tapai drink.
Lihing is also made from rice but allowed to ferment longer until it turns into potent wine.
Another beverage is palm wine, known locally as bahar which is extracted from nipah palms and coconut trees. In Kota Belud, it is mostly derived from the latter.
Sumil Basanau, 46, is a third generation tapper from Kampung Tombulion Laut, Kota Belud. He extracts bahar from the coconut trees in his village.
He said bahar is derived from the flowers of the coconut tree while they are still in bud form.
“What I usually do is build a bamboo ladder right up to the top of the coconut tree. Some people don’t do this but I think safety first and so I build the ladder. This is especially important if the tree is tall like 12 feet and above. The risk of falling can be minimised this way.”
What usually happens is that when a bud appears on the tree, Sumil will tie it down so that it droops. He will then bind the bud, crop the tip and leave it for at least three days. After that, he returns with a container.
In the old days, bamboo cuts were used to catch the sap but nowadays, plastic containers or anything that can catch the sap, are used instead.
“I will climb up and secure the container to the bud so that the sap will flow down without spilling. I will then cut a very thin slice of the sap just so it flows again,” Sumil explained.
According to him, the sap will flow the whole day slowly but surely and is cut slightly again in the evening.
It is collected everyday at 5pm or so.
By that time, there should be a litre or more of sap collected in the container. It will be then taken down and another container put in position.
“I get about a litre a day, or at times, about a litre and a half. It depends on how nicely and neatly the sap is sliced. So I do this everyday to collect the sap,” he said.
Sumil shared that one bud of about two feet long would last a couple of months — so he can fill about 60 containers from each flower stump. The more trees, the more bahar to be harvested.
Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Palm wine of the Kadazandusun.