Monday, May 20

Crunchy ‘nests’ a traditional Gawai Dayak celebration fare

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FOCAL POINT: Niga Bandau is the centre of attention as her grandchildren gather around her while she fries ‘kuih jala’, assisted by her daughter Noormah Muhi (right) while Rimie Singam (left) is making ‘kuih sepit’.

SIBU: The Gawai Dayak celebration will be incomplete without the Iban traditional snack called ‘sarang semut’ (ant nest) or ‘kuih jala’.

To the longhouse community, serving this delicacy at the ruai (verandah) is a sign of goodwill and friendship.

Housewife Niga Bandau of Rh Martin Nyurang in Sg Assan said her family had been making the traditional snack for years, and each time the Gawai came, their guests would be delighted with the crispy, crunchy nests. “Indeed, it is important for us to serve this traditional snack, and almost all longhouse families are preparing it.”

She said they would consider something was missing from the festival if they did not serve it, and they would feel uneasy when guests arrive at their doorstep.

The housewife said the delicious kuih was easy to make. When The Borneo Post reporter visited the family, the 64-year-old granny was assisted by her daughter, Noormah Muhi, 24, in the kitchen.

“All we need are rice flour and brown sugar or ‘gula melaka’ (also known as ‘gula apong’) before churning out the nests in the wok.”

She uses a halved coconut shell punched with tiny holes for the rice flour mixed with gula melaka to flow through into boiling oil in a wok.

The dough forms threads that clump up into a ‘nest’.

They scoop up the kuih jala when it turns golden brown, and let the oil drain from it before storing it in an airtight container. The housewife said the deep frying takes less than three minutes.

“To enjoy the mouthwatering snack, just dip a piece in a glass of hot tea or coffee, and the kuih melts in your mouth. I assure you once you have a piece, you will ask for more.” Besides Niga and her daughter, another family member Rimie Singam, 31, was also making the nests in the kitchen.