Umai and other local delights @ Fisherman Restaurant

claypot tom yam prawns

I’ve been craving for umai lately and had the chance to eat it again for dinner with Arthur last night. Fisherman Restaurant is a popular local restaurant to bring visitors coz it has a lot of Melanau native delights like lokan, umai and ikan terubok. These are all Sarawakian dishes – they even have dabai (a local type of olive) when it’s in season.

umai

Umai is a local version of ceviche. Fisherman Restaurant does it in a style that’s similar to umai jeb in Mukah. I’ve had it when I went to Mukah in 2008 – it’s very fresh fish (in this case white pomfret or ikan bawal putih) that’s been cured with lime and mixed with chopped onions and chillies.

sarawak prawn crackers

It’s delicious when you eat it with the prawn crackers they serve as an appetizer.

prawn crackers umai

(although it’s traditionally eaten with sago pearls)

individual prawn claypot

We also ordered an individual serving of large prawn in a mini claypot. These prawns are huge and used in big head prawn noodles. The prawn is cooked in an assam tom yam broth soup and it costs RM 20 per prawn. It’s worth it though coz they do it very well – the broth is flavorful and spicy and the prawn meat is firm and juicy and sweet.

paku santan

The fibre quota was fulfilled by paku santan. It’s a local fern cooked Melanau style in santan (coconut milk) and shrimp. I really liked this dish too, everything the cook sent out really hit the mark.

fisherman restaurant

That’s why Fisherman Restaurant is so popular despite being relatively decrepit – peeling paint on the walls, dated single-unit wall air conditioners, and a musty interior. There were a lot of people who came after us coz we went really early – the place was quite full. I do wish that they put some money into renovation though – it looks the same (except a bit more worn) as when I went in 2008!

fisherman restaurant sibu

This isn’t even the original restaurant – they were located at a different part of town at first and shifted to this place.

fisherman restaurant us

I have to say that the best dish of the night is the roast lamb with mint sauce. This is a newer dish that came to pass with the current generation (the son came back from New Zealand where he had his own restaurant and brought some recipes home) and it’s cooked really well. I have to say that it’s even slightly better than my late mom’s famous lamb (sorry ma). smirk

roast lamb mint

The roast lamb here is sliced generously thick and the meat is juicy. You’ll love this if you’re fond of the slightly gamey taste of lamb, and they don’t overcook it unlike other places. They have two sauces – the mint sauce and a garlic inspired Asian dip, the former is the one you want since the latter is uninspiring. It costs RM 50 for the dish with two large slabs of lamb, definitely a must-order if you visit.

thick lamb slabs

The bill for the two of us came up to RM 126.40 but the roasted lamb (RM 25 per slice) and the tom yam prawns (RM 20 per prawn) accounts for RM 90 so the dishes aren’t really that expensive if you don’t order the premium stuff. Thanks for dinner Arthur! It’s always good to catch up when I’m back home. :)

sixthseal.com Guide to Eating Umai

umai stall

Umai is a raw fish dish prepared by the Melanau tribe in Mukah. It’s a must try dish if you ever go to Mukah. It’s the Malaysian version of the sashimi and is traditionally the working lunch for Melanau fishermen.

Umai is made of thinly sliced slivers of raw fish and served with toasted sago pearls. The popularity of the dish for the fishermen is pragmatic – it doesn’t need to be cooked while deep sea fishing and the sago pearls provides the carbohydrates for a filling lunch.

me slicing fish

The fish has to be really fresh for umai to be prepared since it’s eaten raw. I tried my hand at slicing the raw fish and gave myself a nasty cut to the index finger.

umai segar

Umai is readily available in the markets of Mukah and it’s one of the flagship dishes that Mukah is known for (besides sago grubs). There are two different versions of umai – the traditional umai sambal campur and umai cecah jeb.

The sixthseal.com Guide to Eating Umai

umai step 1

Step 1: Ensure that a reputable umai stall is patronized. The fish needs to be really fresh for raw consumption to avoid uncomfortable conditions like E.Coli and explosive diarrhea.

umai step 2

Step 2: Find a comfortable place to mix your own umai. The ingredients for making umai can all be purchased at the stall and most of the stuff is prepackaged and premixed to the right amounts.

umai step 3

Step 3: Receptacles for the mixing of umai is essential. You would require a plate and a bowl in addition to forks. Sago pearls are eaten using your hand. Empty the raw slivers of fish into the plate. You can opt to retain a small portion of the raw fish for the the other version of umai.

umai step 4

Step 4: Inspect the contents of your umai sambal campur package. It should contain a bag of premixed ingredients essential to the umai experience containing raw onions and chillies. Calamansi limes should also be in the package for the original umai as well as a small packet of salt and the crunchy peanut cookies.

umai step 5

Step 5: Open the packet of crumbly peanut cookies and put it on top of the raw fish slivers. This is the secret ingredient in all good umai dishes that provides the sweet and crunchy texture to the dish.

umai step 6

Step 6: Crush the peanut cookie into a finely grounded powder using the fork. You need the peanut cake to be evenly distributed throughout the dish.

umai step 7

Step 7: Pierce the calamansi limes using a fork to enable a reasonable flow of the juice into the umai. Do not attempt to squeeze the lime without penetrating it with a fork (or another sharp utensil) first. Splash damage is likely to occur.

umai step 8

Step 8: Squeeze the calamansi lime over the raw fish.

umai step 9

Step 9: You need all the calamansi lime juice provided since the acidic nature of the fruit “cooks” the raw fish. I’ll explain the scientific principles at the bottom of the guide.

umai step 10

Step 10: Open the small packet of salt and empty the contents into the umai. The salt offsets the sourness of the calamansi lime and makes it sweet.

umai step 11

Step 11: Open the plastic bag containing the thinly sliced onions and chillies and empty it into the plate of umai.

umai step 12

Step 12: Toss the umai with a fork as you would toss a salad. The motions are similar and so are the aims – to mix everything as evenly as possible. The traditional umai is now ready for consumption!

umai step 13

Step 13: The final step is to empty the sago pearls into a bowl for easier consumption. The sago pearls are eaten using your bare hands to go with the umai.

umai step 14

Step 14: Consume the umai with a handful of sago pearls. The umai should be eaten first and chased with the sago pearls for the authentic Melanau umai experience.

Guide to eating umai video

Optional:

umai jeb

There is a new variant of umai called the umai cecah jeb which is dipped into a sambal (spicy paste) concoction.

umai jeb eat

You’re supposed to take a forkful of umai (raw fish) and then dip it into the special sambal sauce and eat it. It’s delicious! The sambal really got oomph! Very spicy. I like!

Guide to eating umai cecah jeb video

Caution:

splash damage 2

Splash damage is likely to occur even with the proper piercing technique as can be seen on Clare’s top. Respect the calamansi lime and it shall respect you. ;)

Explanation:

difference is clear

The calamansi lime has acidic properties that “cooks” (cures would be a better word) the raw fish in the umai due to reasons beyond my understanding. It just works.
The left fork contains the raw fish before the calamansi lime treatment and the right fork contains the slightly “cooked” fish after being marinated in calamansi lime. You can see the difference in the coloration and texture of the fish.
The difference is clear (TM). ;)

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