Selukung — a traditional delicacy passed down through generations

Ready-to-eat selukung.
BY LUHAT AJANG

MIRI: Sarawak is famous for its variety of traditional cuisines from its multi-racial community.

Many, locally or otherwise, have tasted the popular umai (sliced raw fish with a mixture of onions, chillies, vinegar, salt and lime juice), pansuh (meat cooked in bamboo), kelupis (glutinous rice rolls) and penyaram but there is another type of delicacy that one has to try — selukung.

Selukung is a traditional food of the Kayan people — glutinous rice wrapped in palm leaves (or known as ‘sang leaves’ by locals), just like ketupat.

According to Paya Deng from Kampung Uma Beluvuh, Long Panai in Baram, to cook selukung, the glutinous rice must first be soaked overnight.

Lohong filling glutinous rice into a sang leaf.

“There are three types of weaving to make the shapes of selukung — triangular, rectangular as well as conical.

“The triangular shape is the most common because it is easier and faster.

“For a better taste, we usually choose mature leaves.

“Besides that, selukung cooked using firewood is tastier than using the stove.

“Since it is not cooked using coconut milk, selukung usually lasts for a week if stored in a dry place,” she said.

Ready-to-cook selukung.

On the skill of making selukung, Paya said it should be continued by the younger generation as it is a traditional food passed down through the years.

“In the old days, in addition to being good in the kitchen, women also had to be good in making selukung.

“Since a young age, we have been taught to cook and if one is not skilled, she is not ready to get married,” said the 74-year-old.

Meanwhile, Lohong Jok said in the past, selukung was only made by the aristocrats, especially during gatherings.

Paya showing the three types of selukung weaving.

“Nowadays, selukung can be made by anyone.

“Therefore, I hope that the younger generation will continue to make this traditional Kayan cuisine and introduce it to other communities.

“Like some other traditional foods which undergo several modification processes for commercial purposes, selukung can also go through the same process to attract the attention of traditional food enthusiasts such as by varying the taste and appearance.”

The 68-year-old is confident that the cuisine would bring benefits to the local community if it is marketed with the help of relevant government departments and agencies such as Kraftangan Malaysia as well as the Department of Agriculture.