Saturday, June 06, 2015

Dispatches from Kuching and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo

So where were we? Oh yes, the blog turned 8, I got salmonella poisoning (separate incident!) which unfortunately is still lurking, and then I had a birthday too. A significant birthday, no guessing, lets just say it warranted a very big celebration and a long one.

What better than to skip off to Borneo and spend my last day of the year before the significant one (a-hem) with orangutans, then spend my birthday itself eating laksa and satay and all sorts of other wonderful Malaysian things.

Sarawak is the other Malaysian province of Borneo. You will remember that I have already been to Sabah, and I loved it. I liked Brunei a lot too. I especially fell head over heels for long haired ginger men of the forests (gasp! no, that means orangutans whose name literally translates as that).

I was so lucky this time, I saw so many, which is very unusual. This is because it isn’t fruit season so they tend to come to the feeding platforms to eat.

I saw Saduku, a 44 year old very relaxed orangutan grandmother who wandered among us, Ritchie, a 34 year old alpha male, and lots of unruly teenagers in the trees. At one point, Sadamia and Ruby, a wonderful 14 year old mother and her baby came by to eat. Divine.

Orangutans are endangered and they need our protection, you can read more about the work at Semenggoh Nature Reserve to rehabilitate and return orangutans to the wild.

Sarawak has a food culture of its own, all while being Malay. The produce is different there, midin (jungle ferns) are in season right now and we ate them every day. Think fiddlehead, but much smaller and more delicate. Like fiddleheads, they are the young fern picked just as they peep out of the ground.

Sarawak is also renowned for pepper, and so the Sarawak laksa has a pepper punch. Lots of fresh green peppercorns grow there and are sun dried to create black pepper or soaked for 2 weeks before removing the skins to produce aromatic white pepper.

There are many native tribes, 40 ethnic groups in all, all with food cultures of their own, mainly Iban, Chinese and Malay. Our guide in Sarawak was wonderful Caroline Artiss who was raised in London but whose mother is Chinese Malay from Sarawak.

Caroline is a chef with a terrific youtube cooking channel, and single mom guides too. Caroline and her family brought us to their favourite places to eat which included Chinese Malay and Malay places.

There were so many highlights, seafood, laksa, satay, jungle ferns and those wonderful Malay breakfasts. Lets tuck in!