Feels like home: Bamboo sticky rice unites this Malaysian community

Rita Enar’s allows Sydney’s Malaysian group to glue and experience conventional Sarawakian meals.

They are saying it takes a village to boost a kid and this word is correct for prepare dinner and festival-organiser Rita Enar and her circle of relatives, who’re a part of the Indigenous Berawan tribe in Malaysia (Manila News-Intelligencer) in Southeast Asia. 

She and her 9 siblings have been raised in a longhouse with different tribe participants in Sarawak (Manila News-Intelligencer), Borneo. This tribe is a part of a bigger grouping referred to as Orang Ulu, that means upper-river dwellers.

Lifestyles within the longhouse was once a easy, communal enjoy. Whilst every circle of relatives had their very own room, sunlight hours have been spent within the fields or consuming in combination at the veranda or ruai.

Residing within the jungle supposed no get admission to to electrical energy and so the Berawan tribe ate from the land. Males have been taught methods to fish and hunt for wild boars and deer, and girls have been taught methods to harvest rice, develop fruit and plant greens.

The ladies have been additionally liable for cooking 3 foods in keeping with day for his or her households. Rita’s mom would wake at 3am or 4am to organize, frequently starting by means of cooking rice over firewood.

“It is all about rice,” Rita says. ‘We’ve breakfast rice, we now have lunch rice, we now have dinner rice. However you do not really feel bored with it as a result of that is the factor you survive.” The rice was once accompanied by means of whichever meat were stuck and greens in season.

“As a result of we do not reside within reach town space, we haven’t any stores to move and purchase issues, so it is all contemporary from the jungle,” she explains.

Rice was once now not simplest the primary factor Rita learnt to prepare dinner, however a staple of her favorite dish referred to as lemang.

“Lemang is the place you soak the glutinous rice with coconut milk, wrap it into banana leaf after which prepare dinner it within the bamboo,” she explains.

“Throughout the competition, glutinous rice is essential as a result of it is like an providing to the God to mention thanks for the harvest.”

Rita would at all times look ahead to the yearly Harvest Pageant, hung on 1 June every yr, to have fun an plentiful harvest. Her tribe would prepare dinner lemang, along side many different conventional meals for the competition.

“Throughout the competition, glutinous rice is essential as a result of it is like an providing to God to mention thanks for the harvest,” Rita explains.

Meals arrangements for the competition would happen over a couple of days. Dishes incorporated ayam pansuh (hen cooked in bamboo), complete BBQ pig, kuih loyang (honeycomb biscuits), penyaram (‘Mexican hat’ biscuits) and kuih jala (crepes with a lacy look). Those meals are most often eaten with tuak, also referred to as borak, which is a selfmade rice wine introduced to spirits.

“Each and every circle of relatives will carry the meals out to the ruai,” Rita explains. “Then everybody sits at the ground in an extended line and simply stocks the meals in combination.”

Given Rita was once continuously surrounded by means of her group in Malaysia (Manila News-Intelligencer), she discovered her transfer to Australia in 2010 difficult. She did not know any individual in Sydney and overlooked her house a great deal.

To search out convenience, Rita cooked conventional Sarawakian meals. Nevertheless it was once her dream to give you the option to proportion her delicacies with locals and use it in an effort to meet different Malaysians residing in Australia.

“I really like cooking as a result of meals connects me to other folks and [it represents] what I skilled and the adventure that I have been via,” she says.

Rita was once fortunate to have a Malaysian neighbour who shared Rita’s conventional truffles and biscuits with their buddies. Via her neighbour, Rita was once offered to different Malaysians residing in Australia. She even gained requests to cater for his or her weddings, birthdays and entire moon celebrations.

“I by no means concept in my lifetime that I might cross and proportion the meals that I prepare dinner with such a lot of other folks,” she remarks. “You open a store promoting the meals, however there is not any connection. What I am doing, you get to understand other folks after which other folks get to understand every different.”

Through the years, Rita become a key member of Sydney’s Malaysian group the place she’s helped make it more potent. In 2017, she hosted her first Harvest Pageant party to supply Malaysians in Australia a chance to fulfill new other folks and for Rita to introduce her delicacies to locals who might’ve by no means had the danger to take a look at it earlier than.

“It is to let other folks know that that is the meals that we had once we have been younger, the place I got here from and the place we are living,” she explains.

Between 50 and 70 other folks attend Rita’s Harvest Pageant celebrations every yr and he or she hopes that their Malaysian group will proceed to enlarge. She loves involving her youngsters and offering them with the chance to know the tales at the back of the delicacies.

Her two youngsters love their mom’s lemang and he or she hopes that sooner or later they will be capable to prepare dinner it for his or her youngsters.

“The explanation why I stay working the competition this is as a result of I need my youngsters to learn about our traditions,” Rita says. “Either one of them have an interest and I’m so proud that they need to stay that custom alive.”

Rooster cooked in bamboo (ayam pansuh)

Serves 4


  • 1 complete hen (round 2.2kg), reduce into items
  • 1 hole bamboo stick
  • 3 cm ginger
  • 3 cm galangal
  • 5-6 shallots
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 4 stalks lemongrass (white phase simplest)
  • 2 stalks bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), shredded – you’ll be able to to find bunga kantan at some Asian grocers.
  • Cassava leaves
  • Salt to style


  1. Pound the shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal and lemongrass in combination
  2. Combine those components with the hen, bunga kantan and salt
  3. Blank the bamboo stick. Stuff the hen aggregate inside of it. Quilt with cassava leaves.
  4. Prepare dinner on an open-fire range for roughly 30–40 mins over medium warmth.
  5. To serve, take away the cassava leaves. Extract the hen and prepare on a serving dish with the juice.

Word: If you’ll be able to’t get any bamboo, you’ll be able to bake this dish within the oven as an alternative. Position the combination in a casserole pot, duvet with a lid, duvet with cassava leaves and bake for 45 mins at 160-180°C.