Dishful of cultural insights
Food provides tasty way for visitors to learn about the Kadazandusun
CUISINE is often a gateway to an ethnic group’s culture.
The food is definitely the highlight for visitors to the decades-old cultural centre along the banks of Moyog River in Penampang, near Kota Kinabalu, which has enabled visitors to Sabah to experience the Kadazandusun culture.
For Monsopiad Heritage Village guide Lydia Jumat, sharing and explaining to local and foreign visitors the dishes that she is so familiar with, is all part of the renowned Malaysian hospitality.
“What better way of letting others know about what we are as a country than through our food?” said Lydia, whose mother Bernadette Dullah prepares the food at the Village.
Visitors to the cultural centre also learn about the old ways of life such as starting a fire by rubbing two pieces of wood and hunting with a blowpipe, besides taking part in the sumazau and other traditional dances.
Lydia said Kadazandusun cuisine was about using the freshest ingredients and keeping the dishes simple.
“For example, the losun, which is a type of spring onion, is stir-fried with anchovies, torchflower and white chillies to make a delicious dish,” she said.
She said another traditional dish served there was pinasakan --a dish made with fish like sardines or mackerel that is boiled with ginger, tumeric, lemongrass, onions, tomatoes and garlic.
Bernadette said another method of cooking these types of fish is to simply marinate them with salt and turmeric before frying them and served as a dish called sada ginuring.
The accompanying condiments for the fried fish are local pickles such as jeruk bambangan (a type of wild mango) and tuhau (a variety of wild ginger).
According to Bernadette, the most popular Kadazandusun dish is a broth made from free-range chicken and winter melon.
A “good measure” of lihing or rice wine is added as an option.
To round off the meal is linopot or rice cooked with yam wrapped in leaves.
To most visitors, this meal is exotic but it pales in comparison when they are served with live wriggling larvae of the sago tree beetle locally known as butod.
“Most people will be squeamish just to even touch the larvae but there have been a few who have actually swallowed the butod live,” said Lydia.
“The feedback is that the butod tastes like a very moist piece of cheese,” she said with a laugh, acknowledging that she had yet gotten around to tasting it herself.
Whether it is something exotic like the butod or more mundane such as lihing chicken soup, Kadazandusun cuisine is getting known internationally thanks to the venerable Malaysian custom of being hospitable.
Sada Ginuring or fried sardines is one of the traditional dishes served up in Monsopiad Cultural Village in Penampang.