The Borneo Cultural Festival is back! BCF 2014 is the latest iteration of this Sibu festival celebrating local Dayak/Iban and other native cultures. It’s our version of Kuching Festival and there’s a similar emphasis on food! The last time I went was when I was working here, during Borneo Cultural Festival 2008.
I went with my dad for the last two days and the layout is similar, with sections for Dayak cuisine, Malay cooking and Chinese food. I first wrote about Borneo Cultural Festival in 2003 when my blog was just over a year old (they had a beauty pageant for Miss Malaysian Chinese that year) and went again for BCF 2006 – check out the Borneo Cultural Festival category for full coverage!
Here is my photoblog for BCF 2014:
Ayam Pansuh is a Sarawakian dish that uses bamboo to cook chicken. The meat is stuffed into the tube with tapioca leaves and some water before being cooked over a charcoal fire. The bamboo is then cracked open and the water becomes the stock of this chicken dish. You can eat the tapioca leaves too!
This is a piece of tofu skin that’s been dipped in *real fish batter* before being deep fried. I’ve never quite had something like this before. It’s made of soybeans – basically a bean curd sheet that’s rehydrated and coated with fish. My dad loved it.
12 different types of satay! There’s chicken skin, chicken heart, chicken liver, rabbit, beef, lamb, cockles, ostrich, and many other unusual proteins on skewers. No pork satay here though coz this is a halal stall. However, my favorite guilty pleasure is here in abundance – grilled chicken skin actually tastes wonderful, but you can’t eat too much of it or you’ll get sick of the ultra rich fat.
Wife Cake comes in many different variants here. Besides the traditional lao por peng, there’s also “Husband Biscuits” (Biskut Suami) which uses star anise as a filling.
Pulut Panggang makes an authentic appearance too! It’s glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves that’s been grilled over a charcoal BBQ, giving it the distinctive smoked flavor. I bought several of the beef and chicken filled ones and it was good.
I got potato twisters as well – a staple fair food. It’s a whole potato that’s been cut into spirals and this version uses a sweet batter to coat it before it’s deep fried and slathered with mayo and chilli sauce.
This is a very diluted soft serve ice cream cone. It’s a mix of chocolate and vanilla but it tastes horrible – akin to a penny pinching coffee shop being miserly with the cocoa powder.
Chinese chess competition that’s open to the public. It was played on one of the smaller stages in a tournament format.
This particular booth got Best of Show. The Chinese pavilions are usually very well decorated compared to the sparse Malay booths.
Here’s another example.
These pavilions are usually made by clan associations e.g. Heng Hua, Foochow etc but some of them are owned by more general groups like the Chinese Culture & Art Appreciation societies…
…and they have the manpower from clan membership working inside too!
The Chinese pavilions line the side facing the main road so it’s beautiful when you look in that way – the lights, the glitter, the jazz! (or rather, er-hu ;))
There’s also a huge Taiwanese food trend in the stalls this year.
Music, dance and cultural performances are constantly done on the main stage – it’s also a major attraction besides the food.
Sugar twill machine that makes candy on a stick with CAD printing that you can choose – anything from your Chinese Zodiac (Rooster, Dragon, Snake etc) to intellectual property (Doraemon, Hello Kitty and the Disney character lineup). It’s very popular with kids.
(and the young-at-heart)
The Sibu Pasar Malam Association also has a booth selling traditional night market fare.
Gardenia, Massimo and other commercial large-scale baking and distribution operations in KL don’t sell their RM 0.80 ready-to-eat cream filled buns here, so people often buy them in bulk at LCCT/KLIA2 before flying back. There’s now a Sibu company doing it – UniqBun.
This is my favorite food of the Borneo Cultural Festival 2014. I award it my personal blue ribbon. ;) I even went back the next day with my dad to get some more. It’s cooked-to-order palm sugar balls filled with glutinous rice (pulut). It puffs into a ball when it’s deep fried and it’s a sweet treat at RM 1 each.
You just can’t argue with piping hot, deep-fried sweet balls of caramelized airy dough.
Oh, and it’s dabai season again! I like how this stall had samplers that has been blanched and marinated in soy sauce and sugar (the traditional way of preparing it). You can only get these in Sarawak. It’s called okana (black olives) but it’s not technically in the olive family. A delicious, seasonal local delicacy.
I quite enjoyed going to this year’s Borneo Cultural Festival with my dad. It didn’t run for a while due to politics but now that it’s back, I hope it’ll be an annual event. It wasn’t very packed on the last day due to the rain and some of the food items sells out fast since it starts at 5 pm but it’s a lot of fun!
More importantly, BCF 2014 is a festival we can call our own! :)