A Kelabit Lunch

A Kelabit Lunch

I am not someone who places a lot of emphasis on food. Hence in Bario, food was not a problem to me. In fact, I was so well-fed, I was embarrassed to stand on the weighing scale in the airport when we were leaving Bario because I did not want to know how much I gained in weight! Ignorance is bliss. 
I was assigned to Sina Mayda, and both she and her husband are really good cooks. Either that or it’s the Ajinomoto. A lot of the English words and phrases I taught her revolved around food and cooking, because that was one activity that I did a lot with her – eat. 

Curry puffs and tea for brunch.
One day, Tama Ricky, sina’s husband, brought me to the hydro dam in Arur Dalan. On our way there and back, I had the chance of witnessing him plucking jungle vegetables. These were cooked for lunch the next day. 

Tama Ricky in the jungle on the way to the hydro dam.
Cooking renuyun
A bowl of renuyun soup
Many of the jungle vegetables are cooked as soup. I ate two vegetable soup dishes in Bario – renuyun and tengayan. The soup is not really watery but has a rather thick viscosity to it. The Kelabits also prefer mashing vegetables into small bits using the pestle and mortar, like this vegetable below called ‘dore’. 

Dore leaves

Ubud – wild banana shoots, if I remember correctly. 
Another type of ubud – pineapple shoots. Once again, if I am not mistaken. These were bought from the shops.
Cooked pineapple shoots
Tengayan porridge, to be eaten as a dish. 
A typical lunch in Sina’s house.
Tama calls this the Bario asparagus.
My ABSOLUTE favourite dish in Bario is smoked wild boar. Yup, food in Bario is non-halal, so please be mindful of your own dietary restrictions and requirements when in Bario. 

Smoking wild boar. *sizzle* <3
Labo baka – smoked wild boar <3
A less westernized way of eating.
Nuba laya (rice packed in daun isip) instead of rice on plates.

For me, nuba laya is rather similar to nasi impit, the rice sold with satay. I think the main differences between nuba laya and nasi impit is the type of rice used and the size. One packet of nuba laya is approximately equivalent to three packets nasi impit. That was how much I ate every day. How could I not gain weight judging by the amount of carbohydrate I consumed every day for three weeks in Bario?!

One thing that particularly fascinates me about Bario, or rural communities in general, is how close the people are to the first level of the food supply chain. In Bario, people get their raw food right from the farm whereas in cities, we get them from sellers, who prior to that got their supply from farmers or middlemen.

For instance, one day, Sina Mayda decided to make senape, (glutinous rice packed in daun isip) in the afternoon. On the way home from the paddy field, (read more about the paddy field here), she stopped to cut some daun isip.

Daun isip
Cooking the rice
Cooked rice
Senape (source)

This event fascinated me so much because this is just not how things work in the place I live, Petaling Jaya (PJ)! Let’s say one day I decide to fry some tapioca chips in PJ, I can’t go to my (non-existent) farm in PJ on the way back from work, harvest some tapioca, walk home, slice the tapioca and fry it! Instead, I would have to get my supply of tapioca from the market. This reminds me of what Uncle Julian (Tepuq Sina Rang, our homestay host’s son) once said before he went hunting:

“I am going shopping! The jungle is a shopping centre, like One Utama or Mid Valley. In One Utama you take the chicken and put in the trolley right? In the jungle I take my senapang, hunt for wild boar and put in my 4WD.”

I can’t recall what he said word-for-word, but wow, what a metaphor!

What is your preferred way to ‘shop’ for lunch? 😉

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