Sorry that I have not been posting a lot recently, I am currently travelling Southeast Asia! So this post is about the food and culture I have experienced in Borneo.
Borneo is an island split in 3, the Malay part, Brunei and the Indoesnian part. I went to the Malaysian part, which is split into the Sarawak and Sabah regions, which are very different places to visit. Sabah is in the North and where I began my journey in Kota Kinabalu. I had a bit of a dilemma at the start due to my bag not arriving with me but once I arrived at the hotel and joined my tour, I met a girl called Emmaand we decided to take my mind off the missing bag and grab some street food. When we arrived at a popular street food stall we were quickly told to sit and they would bring us the food. What we were presented with was a noodle soup with pieces of pork (I think?). It was very bland but sorted Emma and my growling stomachs, the only thing which was wrong was there was a piece of meat that was circular, thin and had layers inside of it, which looked quite falic, so as we were about to embark into the jungle, Emma and I thought it would be best if we avoided this odd meat.
In the jungle our food mainly consisted of rice and noodles with a different meat dish accompanying it. We were staying at a survival camp so our meals were cooked by locals. The dishes they produced were amazing and it might just have been because we were trekking all day so we’re staving but I doubt it! On the first night they produced this beautiful fragrant beef dish to accompany the rice. It was rich in flavour and the beef was so juicy and not at all overstewed, which I find the case sometimes in Asian street food. For a dessert they made banana fritters. The bananas out here are a lot smaller in size but a lot sweeter than English bananas, which I much prefer. The bananas were coated with flour and mixed eggs and then just fried to make them crunchy and were the perfect end to a meal. As we were at a survival camp, we were shown by a local, which plants to eat, how to find water and how to catch animals if we were to find ourselves lost in the jungle. It was very interesting to learn about and we got our chance to catch some fresh water crabs that we cooked up a later for dinner. I tried to catch one but the crab was incredibly stubborn so alas I left him after about an hour of trying. The crabs that we did catch once cooked were incredibly crunchy and did not have much meat on them, probably due to the size, but were cooked very simply so lacked flavour as well, but still an interesting experience.
Most of the rest of our meals consisted of rice and noodles, which aggravated some people on my tour, however I found that what they paired with the dishes had such nice flavours, such as my fish head curry. The meat from the fish was very succulent and the curry sauce full of spice! The only issue I had was bones in chicken dishes. Too many times I would bite into a piece of chicken and find it had bones in it. It’s probably due to my British upbringing but it aggravated me that I had to separate the meat from bone and I was really craving a chicken breast, bone free!
The further south we went the meals got slightly more spicier with the addition of sambal. One of my last meals was Ayam Penyet, which was also known as smashed chicken and was delicious! It always comes with a lime and raw salad as this diffuses the sambal chilli spice. This dish is a must have as I couldn’t get enough of it!
Once down south in Sarawak, we spent the night with Iban tribe in their longhouse, notorious for their history in headhunting. The longhouse housed at least 37 families and was a long corridor with rooms along one side. Each door to the room represented one family. Once there our tour guide produced this huge banquet for us, with curries, rice, BBQ beef and bamboo chicken, which was chicken cooked in bamboo sticks. We struggled to even make a dent in all this food but as a thank you for lowering us stay our tour guide let the rest of the tribe eat the leftovers, which was considered a huge luxury for them! That evening we were shown a typical welcome dance by the locals, during which they gave us their homemade rice wine and whiskey. The alcohol was incredibly strong. The rice wine tasted a lot like sake and quickly made me feel very drowsy! After the dance we offered the tribe gifts, which were packets of super noodles, crisps and sweets. They were so delighted with these gifts and distributed them equally amongst the 37 families, so as not to cause any fights!
Our final meal in Kuching, our tour guide took us to a local spot called Top Spot, situated on the top of the mall. Here you ordered what type, weight and style of cooking of fish you wanted and they bring it to you. I ordered a red snapper cooked with chilli and ginger and asked for enough for 1 person and I was not disappointed! I was even served the whole fish and it was incredible and cost me about £2!
All in all the food was pretty decent in Borneo but if you are thinking of going don’t get put off by the amount of rice and noodles served to you! Most of the time what it’s served with, has some great flavours and cannot be missed! Also just go to see the wildlife. It is incredibly, diverse and you can see them really close and in their natural habitat!