black glutinous rice.
Lugun – who loves to make her own tuak, a skill she learned from her Kelabit sister-in-law 17 years ago – explains at a recent interview that drinking tuak is a ritual and tradition, and that it is consumed to celebrate a good harvest, the birth of a child, a marriage ceremony and to perform miring ceremonies (to honour gods, spirits and ancestors). The ancient art of making rice wine has been around for thousands of years but it is dying out as more people are turning to modern liq- uors like beer and whiskey nowadays, she says.
“I hope that the book will help tuak find its rightful place in Bornean society again and be accorded the same respect and status as other modern liquors,” she says, adding that she hopes the recipes in the book will make the sometimes rough liquor “elegant and more palatable”.
Lugun explains some of the cocktails in her book, such as Pandelela’s Dive, a mixture of clear tuak, green peppermint liqueur, kiwi fruit and a dash of blue Curacao, which was created to celebrate national diver Pandelela Rinong’s achievements. (Pandelela became a celebrity after becoming the first female Malaysian athlete to win a medal – a bronze for the 10m platform – at the 2012 Olympics in London.)
“She has received a lot of accolades from the nation, including a car and a scholarship, so I thought why not name a cocktail after her. It’s my way of honouring her and she has a unique name,” says Lugun.
With the help of renowned Brazilian mixologist Diego Michelato, Pandelela’s Dive was created, along with the other drinks. “I explained to Diego the significance and story of every cocktail’s name and he came up with the concoction,” says Lugun, explaining that she is no mixologist and, thus, reached out for help.
She wrote to 10 renowned mixologists in the world but only Michelato replied and agreed to fly to Kuching in 2012 to assist her with the book. According to Michelato, tuak is neutral, which makes it a good base for cocktails, reports Lugun. foodie scene? Find out just what makes the Penang White Curry Mee so special, as originator Penangite Thomas Tang shares the secret behind his bestselling creation, and just why it’s taking the country, and the world, by storm (page 32). Author of the newly-published
“In over a week, we experimented with over 100 cocktails. We invited tuak connoisseurs, foodies and those in the food and beverage business to sample and comment on the cocktails, names and presentation. In the process, some were discarded.”
Many of the tales were gathered by Lugun during her 30 years as a journalist, which saw her travelling all over Borneo, particularly in Sarawak, and picking up many legends and folkloric tales.
Many of these tales inspired the tuak cocktails that she and Michelato created. For instance, Bujang Senang was an infamous man-eating crocodile that terrorised the people of the Batang Lupar River in Sarawak for decades.
Some of the cocktails have also been named after friends, organisations, and restaurants in Kuching that helped by sharing cocktail recipes or attending the tuak cocktail sampling sessions. And the Tun Jugah cocktail is dedicated to the late Tun Temenggong Jugah Barieng, a prominent politician and Iban leader in Sarawak.
(The Tun Jugah Foundation, which had been established in 1985 with the objective of commemorating his services and contributions and preserving Iban culture and history, helped Lugun with the book.)
Lugun also set up her own company, Wildman Communications Sdn Bhd, to publish the book and says she has many people to thank, including budding photographer Alexis Fam who shot all the images at the writer’s home in Kuching; Agustus Sapen, for contributing his rice wine recipe; Jacqueline Jelawi Ambas, for sharing the secrets of making rice wine yeast; and Mike Reed for writing the book’s Foreword.
As for her next book project, Lugun says she is contemplating writing on her culinary experiences with tuak and how it can be used in food.
Borneo Spirits And Tuak Tales is available at MPH, Times, Borders and Silverfish bookstores.
Exotic mix: Pandelela’s dive is a tuak cocktail created in honour of national diver Pandelela rinong’s achievement at the 2012 Olympics. — Photo from borneoSpirits &TuakTales