Sarawak - The Hidden Paradise of Borneo

Sarawak is part of the oldest, biologically-diverse rainforest on Earth, with a genetic repository that is much older than the Amazon rainforest. More than 67% of Malaysia’s largest state is under forest cover. From the air, it is a lush carpet of green with a complex network of rivers snaking throughout the land. Sarawak’s forests and rivers largely influence the lives of the indigenous people, who have a history of being very reliant upon the forest for food and medicines, as well as much of their building materials. Their forebears lived in or at the forest fringe, usually along rivers, fishing, hunting and foraging for food. One of the best known Iban dishes is pansoh manok (ayam pansuh), which features chicken and lemongrass cooked in a bamboo log over an open fire. This natural way of cooking seals in the flavours and produces astonishingly tender chicken with a gravy perfumed with lemongrass and bamboo. Sago is the staple food of the Melanau and the nomadic Penan. Sago palms are pounded to extract the starch which is transformed into granules or ''pearls''. The sago pearls are converted to flour which the Melanau use to make sago cakes, biscuits and other snacks. The Melanaus, who are skilled fishermen, are also credited with creating umai, one of Sarawak’s best-loved dishes. The salad of raw fish, lime juice, shallots and chillies was created by Melanau fishermen who wanted to enjoy a meal at sea. A visit to the longhouse will usually see guests welcomed with a glass of tuak, a home-brewed rice wine. The brew has a sweet fragrance and is highly alcoholic – a small glass is enough to send the unaccustomed to euphoric heights.


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