Food has always been the best way to become familiar with a place, culture and its people, so I tried to sample every dish during the Traditional Food Festival held in Lanjak, West Kalimantan.
From 14 to 15 September, an Indonesian community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) NGO, Riak Bumi organised a traditional food festival in Lanjak.
This year marked the sixth year the food festival had been organised for the community of Lanjak by Riak Bumi.
The two-day festival saw 23 groups participating in the cooking competition as they competed to prepare the best traditional dishes on the first day.
During the cooking competition, the participants were required to cook traditional food without using artificial flavouring. This included commercial sugar and even regular cooking oil.
Instead, they used natural flavouring and ingredients such as palm sugar and tengkawang oil for their cooking.
As Lanjak is located about 40 minutes drive from the Lubok Antu border, some of the dishes in our neighboring country bore some similarities to Sarawakian cuisine as well.
With a smorgasbord of food laid out, here are some of the dishes that I managed to sample that everyone should try when visiting Lanjak.
Wajit is a popular traditional Indonesian sticky sweet rice snack. It is made of glutinous rice, regular rice, palm sugar, coconut milk and pandan leaves. Typically, after wajit is cooked, it will be spread onto a baking tray and cut into diamond shapes. However, wajit can be molded into any shape that you fancy!
In Lanjak, the local communities still hunt for food. This includes fish, toads and even deer. During the traditional food festival, I had the opportunity to try venison straight off the grill. Yum!
In Southeast Asian countries, eating insects is a norm and Borneo is no exception. At the traditional food festival in Lanjak, one of the most fascinating dishes to be served were fried fire ants (kesa). For those who have never had them before, fried ants have a sour and tangy taste and not surprisingly, a crunchy texture.
This sweet purple beverage is made up of lakum fruit mixed with honey. Lakum fruits looks like exactly like a blueberry.
Rice cooked in pitcher plant
Nasi pok yok is rice cooked in pitcher plants. When steaming the rice, no artificial flavouring is added as natural flavour from the pitcher plant will seep to the rice. This dish is prepared by stuffing rice and some water into the pitcher plant and steaming it until the rice is fluffy.
Tapioca kolak (kolak ubi) is a type of Indonesian dessert made with coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan leaf. Generally, kolak comes in different variations such as banana, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and jackfruits. It is said that kolak is a popular sweet during Ramadan.
In Sarawak, kucai (or chives) is usually cooked with egg or chopped garlic. However, during the traditional food festival in Lanjak, I discovered an interesting way of cooking them – inside a bamboo.
Dishes cooked in bamboo
Speaking of bamboo, the traditional food festival in Lanjak would not be complete without “pansuh”. “Pansuh” means cooked in bamboo. From chicken to fish and even deer, any type of meat will taste great cooked in bamboo.
The fish umai in West Kalimantan is also similar to those enjoyed in Sarawak. Generally, the ingredients used for this dish are mostly similar, only instead of lime, they substitute it witha a citrus fruit called ‘buah kandi’ for its acidic and sour taste.
This rice dish is a mixture of glutinous rice with regular rice. To prepare this dish, the rice is mixed and soaked in water. They are then ground with palm sugar and fry in a pan until they turn reddish brown. After that, the rice can easily be shaped into a cylindrical form using hand. It has a mild roasted rice scent to it and a hard, brittle texture.
This Instagram-worthy dish has a savoury, sweet and milky taste. This dish is prepared by cutting a hole on top of a whole pumpkin and scoop out the flesh. To prepare this dish, a mixture of coconut milk, pandan leaves, palm sugar and eggs are poured into the pumpkin mould and steamed.
This dish is a traditional Kenyah dish. It is basically glutinous rice cooked in wild palm leaves and folded into triangles.