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Malaysia Day

Posted on 2022-09-16 03:00:00

We take a quick look at the uniqueness of East Malaysia through what we know best - yummy food!

August and September are both associated with a great feeling of patriotism as it celebrates the country - Hari Merdeka on 31st August, and Malaysia Day on 16th September. We all know about Hari Merdeka but do you ever wonder what Malaysia Day is all about? Well, it’s the day in 1963 when the former British colony of Singapore and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak joined the Federation of Malaya to create the Malaysian Federation (but Singapore left two years later).

For many years, Peninsular and East Malaysia were perceived as separate entities. After all, the South China Sea divides the two land masses. But times have changed and there’s been more interaction between the people of both the East and West of our country. And if there is one thing that unites us all it is the glorious food of Malaysia! We know the popular ones from the West but what about the East? Here’s a look at some of the popular cuisines of East Malaysia. If you know them already, tell us which are your favourites on Twitter @Graduan.

Let’s start with the signature dish of Kuching, Laksa Sarawak, also known as Breakfast of the Gods by locals. It is unique compared to other laksa dishes in the country as the broth has the perfect blend of spiciness, herbs and tanginess mixed with the creamy taste of coconut milk.

Then we have Mee Kolok, also an iconic Sarawak dish - dry noodles topped with sliced beef or chicken, spring onions and fried shallots.

For Kadasan-Dusun people, eating fish has become their tradition thanks to the fresh supply of seafood in the North Borneo island. A favourite is Hinava Ginapan, which is fresh fish mixed with shaved Bambangan fruit (wild mango), red chili, ginger, shallot, lemon, and salt. Hinava is usually served during the Tadau Kaamatan event, a ceremony for rice planting spirit, or other events like marriage.

Another fish dish that’s famous in the East is Pinasakan Sada or simply Pinasakan. Famous in Sabah, it is a braised basung fish mixed with takob akob, which is a tangy wild fruit mainly harvested for its skin. In addition to that, fresh turmeric, salt and slices of Bambangan are topped on this dish. Pinasakan goes well with rice or ambuyat and a dash of sambal.

Linut, a famous delicacy especially in the Mukah Dalat region, is considered one of the most complete dishes for Melanau. It is a sticky porridge-like type of food made from sago flour. It can be eaten raw, or dipped into spicy sambal belacan and usually served during high tea or as supper.

The “Fear Factor” food of Sabah, Butod is likely the most exotic of all. Butod are sago worms found feeding on the insides of the sago palm tree, a few months before they turn into beetles. They are about the length of your little finger and they look like giant maggots but don’t let it fool you as it is a solid protein source and is very nutritious too! To eat it, you can pluck it straight from the tree, grab its hard head (to avoid eating it) and bite it off. Its insides will come bursting out, and has been described as “creamy” by locals. Don’t worry, if you don’t like it raw, you can always stir-fry butod to your liking.

We asked some of our East Malaysian friends what their favourite food is.

“Linut is my favourite food from The East! A tribal dish of the Melanau people and it’s made by mixing sago flour and water and it has a glue-like texture. We eat linut together with sambal belacan.” - Hana.

“If I could find the taste of butod in any substitute, I would have it all the time! The taste is different and one of a kind.” - Arif.

“Going back to Kuching for Aidilfitri is my favourite time of every year. Not only do I get to see my friends and family, I also get to have Laksa Sarawak, made by my Sarawakian born and raised mother who got her recipe from her late mother.” - Liana.

by Hannah Ridzuan

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