The Art of Tuak by Agustus Sapen

If you read The B-Side online magazine, which you can download to your phone or tablet, check out this month’s article on tuak making.


Photo taken from The B-Side


The humble vegetable

Daun ubi, tapioca leaves or better known in Bidayuh as dawu’ bandung, is a plant that grow in the wild, but has been cultivated as widely eaten by the Bidayuhs. They say if you want to know if a Bidayuh lives in a particular house, look at the backyard. If there are tapioca leaves planted, it means there are!

It’s been a staple for a long time, hearkening back to the days when meat was a luxury and vegetables aplenty. But even now, when meat has become the norm, the humble dawu’ bandung can never be replaced.

Among the more popular dishes are stir fried, or stewed with dahang pangan (rice fermented pork), manok pansoh, or made into a soup with canned stew pork.So if you’re ever a visitor to the state, ask around and try some!

I hate talking about food. It makes me hungry. Now wouldn’t it be nice to have a cafe for non-halal Dayak food?

It’s in the pork

What makes most Dayaks (non-Muslim ones) swoon in ecstasy?


(Anyone finding this offensive and stop reading here.)

I think Dayaks love pork even more than the Chinese, elevating it to some sort of Holy Grail of food. Seriously I kid you not.

And the best-est way to cook it?

Barbeque. No frills, in soy sauce and garlic marinade, later to be eaten with soy sauce and garlic with chilli and sugar.

Sometimes I think this obssesion is probably why so many Dayaks are overweight and unhealthy. The alcohol helps too. Our ancestors can’t afford meat all the time, a luxury for festivals and large celebrations. Now everyone can buy meat all the time. So I’m guessing they’re making up for lost time. Instead of hunting for it and actually burning off some calories in the process, all they need is to drive up to the nearest market and pick at the preferred cut, displayed on boxes, sellers swatting flies away with their bare hands, usually dressed in white singlets and short pants.

Undeniably it tastes great, but this unhealthy obsession can be a bit disgusting. How much can you eat pork before looking like one?

On normal days is fine. The occasional pork rice or kueh chap.

Until Gawai or Christmas arrives. Then its an entire month worth of pork gorging all you can eat galore. Usually that leaves me abstaining from it for about a month at least.

Gawai isn’t a month, just that some kampungs celebrate it later than others, giving people excuses for MCs, hangovers, outrageous behaviours and weight gain. “Gawai made me do this! *points at bulging waist”.

And Christmas, coinciding with the year end and New Year is another perfect excuse to throw a barbeque every week (it’s on rotation basis), more bingeing and stinky drains clogged with vomit. If in the West Christmas is being replaced by Santa Claus, over here it’s food and alcohol.

Don’t get me wrong, I love enjoying pork and alcohol, especially during Gawai and year end festivities. A great way to wind down and just enjoy that buzz, with friends in the comfort of your home. Just that certain fringes tend to overdo it.

But… it’s tradition, a very Dayak thing to do.

So anyone wanna visit Sarawak for lotsa free food and booze? Come during Gawai, or Christmas. Don’t worry, we wait until after church before we start the fire and unscrew (yes, we don’t always use corks, no D.O.C appellation) the bottles.

And once you’re here, no one escapes. We feed you and then we eat you.

Okay, just kidding.

But we enjoy feeding though.

Note: Malays native to Borneo are also actually Dayaks, animists who converted to Islam when it spread to Borneo. Although many Dayaks nowadays believe they are separate and distinct from the Malays, we share the same roots. It’s more of a religion thing. Many Malays won’t like being called Dayak, and most Dayaks feel the same way too. I couldn’t care less. We share the same island what.