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Food of Borneo

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Food of Borneo



                            The Kadazandusuns in Sabah has its own identity in everything, their traditional clothes, their languages, dances, songs and even food. One of the traditional foods identified with most ethnic groups under the Kadazandusun umbrella is the hinava. Almost all the 40 groups classified  as Kadazandusun consume this dish.  Hinava is actually fish picked in lime. The flesh of the mackerel or tenggiri is frequently used. The flesh is cut  into small strips and seasoned with salt, lime and chopped ginger. It is then left for ten minutes before being consumed. It is actually ‘cooked’ by the lime. It is usually eaten with rice or as an accompanying dish for rice wine. Flesh of other types of fish can also be used. These include the  sting ray, sharks and barracudas.


               There are several opinions as to how this dish was formulated in the past. It is believed that in the olden days, when the people go to the paddy field they would only bring salt and lime. Whenever they feel hungry, they would go to the paddy hut and cook their rice. Rice was usually cooked in bamboo. They would then look for edible plants and picked them. They would pickle the food plants in lime and salt. They would also do this with bigger fish. The smaller fish was usually cooked by wrapping them in various layers of leaves and cooking it over embers.


                           Hinava has since been identified as the people’s dish and is made with many additional ingredients such as onions, garlic and chilli. The other traditional food is the ‘Pinarasakan’ or boiled fish. The best fish to use for this cooking technique is the bigger ones.The fishes are  gutted, cleaned and carefully arranged in a pot. Turmeric is cut in small strips and sprinkled on top, as well as salt. Young mango or   bambangan which has been cleaned and cut into pieces are placed on top. Water is then added. The water should reach to just an inch  above the fish. You should allow it to simmer and cook until the water is almost gone. This is pinarasakan, a recipe utilized by the people since time immemorial and still is being practiced today.


                           Vegetables are relatively easy to find in the wild, in this part of the world. There are edible ferns and many palm trees’ pith can be eaten. One of the palm trees with edible pith is the Sago palm tree.  The pith is not very easy to extract as this palm tree is quite huge. When it is extracted however, it is quite good to eat.  The soft part of the pith is used, where it is cut into bite size pieces and washed thoroughly.    It is then boiled with  salted fish or chicken; actually you can cook it with anything you want. After the pot start boiling you can pour in a cup of coconut extract for   flavour. This is especially commendable if you are cooking the pith with chicken or meat.  The other type of vegetables found in the jungle or at the fringe is the bamboo shoots.


                           The inside of the shoots is used as food after the tough outer leaves have been removed. All fresh bamboo needs to be carefully peeled  to remove every trace of the fine, sharp hairs that grow in the outer husk. They are then boiled for anything from 10 minutes to several hours, to remove the toxic hydrocyanic acid before cooking or eating. It is then boiled again, with meat or ingredients of one’s choice. When it is nearly cooked, a cup of coconut extract will enhance its flavour tremendously. The other dish famed among the Kadazandusun community is pickled  fish. Fish used in the pickled called “nonsom sada” or “bosou” is usually small fresh water fish fries.


                         The fishes are cleaned thoroughly and then salt is added. After that cool overnight rice is crumbled into the concoction. t is mixed   thoroughly. The dried seeds of the Pangi or Pangium edule are then chopped open and the contents scrapped out. The scrapped  out contents are then pounded until they are powder-like. This item is then sprinkled on the concoction and mixed thoroughly.  The mixture is scooped into small jars which will be closed tightly. This ensures that the bosou is not ‘contaminated’. If the jar is not closed too tight, chances are the mixture  will soon become a worm colony! It should be ready for consumption in one month time. Bosou can be eaten just as it is with rice or you can steam or  fry it with onions and chillis. The other food item that is widely consumed in the Kadazandusun community is the ‘nonsom Bambangan’


                       The nonsom Bambangan or the pickled bambangan is relatively easy to make.Bambangan, botanically called Mangifera pajang is derived of its skin and then cut into bite sizes.  It is then sprinkled with salt and then the seeds are cut open and grated. The grated seeds, in powder form are then mixed thoroughly with the concoction.  It is then left to keep for weeks before eaten. Some pickles are known to last for a year.Many traditional dishes are still being served and consumed today and as such they should be compiled in recipe books or introduced to tourists by those involved in the homestay programme.



 (Source : Sabah Times, Thursday 10 July 2008, By: Anna Vivienne)


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