One of the great things about Sarawak is the large number of public holidays and festivals that all the different ethnic groups enjoy. The Chinese have their Chinese New Year, the Malays have Ramadan and Hari Raya, and the Dayaks or native tribes have their Gawai Dayak. Schools close during these festival seasons to allow the folks to “balik kampung” or return to their home village.
For us, we would normally take the occasion to travel elsewhere, like when we went to Singapore in 2010 and to KL in 2011 (which I have yet to blog about – I’m so behind!). This year, we stayed local and spent the long Gawai holiday weekend with a group of friends in their hometown of Sarikei, about a five-hour drive from Kuching. Besides some great experiences and memories, here are a few of the things we brought back with us.
Welcome to Sarikei
Stopping for Sweets
We drove in a convoy, and after the long journey the first place we stopped at in Sarikei town was the Kim Hing Bakery and Confectionery. It seemed an odd thing but our friends wanted us to try this muar chee (mochi) that is made only at this one bakery. The muar chee is flavored with pandan, steamed and then cut into small sections, and then a layer of peanut butter is spread on top before it is dusted with Nestum.
We had it at dinner that night, and it was incredible. The muar chee was so soft, and the creamy peanut butter added a salty counterpoint to the sweet glutinous rice. The Nestum dusting helped to keep the muar chee easy to handle. We ordered several more packs to take home with us.
Muar Chee With Peanut Butter and Nestum
Hunting for Herbs
Our friends also brought us to this Chinese herbal medicine shop in town to buy some bek ting herbs, goji berries and Chinese red dates in order to make some Sarikei Chicken Soup. We also picked up a bag of fragrant dried chrysanthemum buds to make tea, and some almond syrup to make cordials and jellies.
Almond Syrup, Chrysanthemum Tea, Bek Ting Herbs, Goji Berries and Chinese Dates
Of course, we couldn’t make Sarikei chicken soup without the Sarikei chickens. These are a special breed of free-range birds raised only in Sarikei. We had these chickens three different ways at different dinners on our trip, all excellent. We came home with two chickens cut in half, and are looking forward to replicating some of the dishes we had.
The thing I am most excited about, though, is what’s in this box:
Mystery Box From Sarikei
I’m excited about it because it was the one thing I was really looking forward to in Sarikei. It almost didn’t happen and when it did was happy beyond measure.
Can you guess what’s inside the box? Leave your guess in the comments below!
I’m eager to share our experiences in Sarikei with you, so stay tuned!