Chinese New Year is a busy time for the Chinese community nationwide, with house cleaning done the week prior, as well as getting all the snacks and food ready for the 15-day celebration! Visiting during CNY is also allowed for immediate family members for the first two days.
In addition to the normal array of cookies and Bak Kwa (Chinese pork jerky) usually served during open houses, here are other foods that are unique to Sarawak!
1. Pickled Cucumbers on Crackers
Locally known as ‘acar timun’, it is basically thin slices of cucumber and carrots pickled in vinegar, sugar and spices. Additions to the recipe vary with each cook, but they’re generally sweet, sour and a little spicy, but refreshing when eaten with prawn or fish crackers.
It can be challenging to find pickled cucumbers at any other time of the year, as a lot of homemade sellers only open up orders a month or two before CNY, which makes it a uniquely Sarawakian CNY culture. If you see a large tub of crackers during open houses, ask for some acar timun to eat with that.
2. Layered goodness
Kek Lapis Sarawak or Sarawak layered cake, is Sarawak’s pride and joy, and can be seen practically every time there’s an open house, no matter the celebration, whether it’s CNY, Hari Raya, Gawai or Christmas! You’d think we’d be sick of kek lapis Sarawak by now, but they’re a must-have every time there’s a gathering or celebration!
Kek Lapis Sarawak, especially commercially made ones, have about 15 to 20 layers, with a variety of colours, but kek lapis Sarawak bakers are able to construct complex geometric shapes, making each block of cake a unique piece of art you can eat!
3. Algae cake
Kek Lumut, which means moss cake, got its name from the green colour. This is another one of Sarawak’s treasured bakes, but is not as readily available as the kek lapis, due to the amount of effort needed to perfect this cake. There are also variations of the traditional recipe, with people adding layers of cheesecake, making it a kek lumut-kek lapis hybrid.
Kek Lumut gets its flavour from a mixture of malt drink powder (like Horlicks), pandan paste, kaya (coconut jam) and condensed milk, along with other baking ingredients. The batter is then steamed for a minimum of 2 and half hours. The longer you steam it, the better it tastes and the longer its shelf life. The result? A moist, sweet, rich and decadent slice of heaven.
Although open houses aren’t going to be as festive due to COVID-19 regulations, at least we can look forward to having amazing food and cakes with our family members. With that said, have a prosperous Chinese New Year from all of us at BorneoTalk!