There is this saying, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Assimilation is by no means easy, especially when I am now at a place where the people are predominantly Melanau. To my untrained ears, Melanau might as well just be an exotic foreign language. Ironic, to think in Sarawak we can find Japanese classes and not the Mother tongue of our local brethrens.
Today I made my first foray into the wet market in search of local delicacies. Tasting what they eat, I felt, is a good first step of understanding their culture. The market was situated next to the river, coloured a muddy yellow and dotted by wooden boats of various shapes and shades. Here fresh fish were found aplenty; once hauled abroad dry land they were deftly dealt with skilled knives and packed into transparent square containers. This is the famous local sashimi, fondly known as umai.
A teary old man stood nearby, chopping onions into uniformed shreds. A younger one packed them into small plastic bags with a few slices of chilli, and tied it together with another plastic containing limes. This, together with a small jar of belacan, is a DIY umai kit. Not cheap too, the whole set costs me RM18.
Back home, I prepared the umai as instructed by the fish monger. This is the result:
Fish sashimi with belacan enjoyed with my bittergourd fried rice.
The taste? Heavenly. Succulent and chewy, with the natural taste of the sea. Comparable with the fresh salmon I had in Australia. Wonder why we all still go to sushi kings eating defrosted salmon rather than indulging in fresh fish available from our own backyard. Surely there exists tremendous market potential for this?
Anyway just to show you all where the pharmacy is relative to my house:
The pharmacy as seen from the doorstep of my house. Literally just a stone throw away.
Vice versa, my house as seen form the front of the pharmacy. I lived in the top left hand corner of a quartered bungalow.
The out-patient pharmacy
My shared office.
Looking forward to my second week in Mukah. Next step, learn the language. No, I’m not leaving here as the same whole pebble thrown into the stream as I’m now. By the time I leave, I vow, there will be ridges and crevices to hold the rich memories of the place.