It’s a staple every time Gawai comes around, but the famous Sarawakian rice wine lovingly known as tuak is no longer reserved exclusively for the special festivity or served to guests at a longhouse as a welcome drink. Today, the sweet alcoholic drink deeply rooted in the culture of the Dayak community in Sarawak. It is also served at bars and various other special occasions. It has served in exclusive dinner parties at five-star hotels, attended by high profile guests from all over the world.
As people became more adventurous, they began to come up with different flavours of tuak. Today, it’s not surprising to find tuak infused with fruity flavours such as apple, roselle, grape and pineapple. But there’s nothing like the original tuak. Perhaps you’ve heard of tuak, and maybe you’ve already tasted it, but do you know how it’s made?
There are two essential ingredients in tuak making. The first is rice, which must cooked first and then left to cool. Glutinous rice (beras pulut) is most ideal for tuak making.
The second key ingredient known as “ragi”, which contains the enzymes and yeast needed to convert the starch in the rice into sugar and then from sugar to alcohol, these happen in the fermentation process. “Ragi” can found in some small grocery stores or at the market and often come in round or dish shapes. This compacted ingredient needs to crushed using pestle and mortar before mixed into the cooked rice that has left to cool.
After left to ferment for a couple weeks in a cool dark place, a mixture of sugar and water that have boiled and left to cool can added to the rice and ragi mixture before it’s left to ferment again for another two weeks. After the fermentation period, put the mixture through a strainer and then put the brew back into the jar, leaving it to ferment for at least a month or up to three months before you can finally enjoy this traditional alcoholic beverage. If you prefer, you can put it through a coffee strainer several times during the fermentation process until your tuak comes out clear.
Finally, after all months of fermentation, the tuak is ready. Depending on how much sugar you use and how long the fermentation process is, a tuak can be very dry or very sweet, or sometimes somewhere in between. Do be careful when handling the precious brew during its fermentation period because contamination can cause tuak to become sour, although still consumable.
Here’s a video that’ll help you get a better grasp on the processes involved in making tuak: