Tales

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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

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