Native cooking is all about fresh ingredients and fuss free cooking. At Cafe Sumai Indai, resident cook and owner Ramina or more lovingly known as Indai, whips up authentic Iban dishes that you usually find in a longhouse.
One of the signature dishes here is the 'Ayam Pansuh'. This is a dish that requires minimal prepping. Chicken pieces, tapioca leaves, ginger and torch ginger flower are mixed together and cooked in a bamboo. The secret is not to add water since bamboo already has a high moisture content. Water would just dilute and mute the flavours. Instead of barbecuing the bamboo, Indai cooks it directly on her stove. She takes it off the fire when the chicken aroma starts to fill up her kitchen. That's when you know it's done!
When you slurp the broth, it slides down your throat like your mum's chicken soup. Bitter tapioca leaves and tender chicken chunks are infused with hints of ginger, warming up your tummy like a cosy blanket. This is great for those cold, rainy monsoon nights. Indai also makes pork, fish and even duck pansuh if chicken's not your thing.
If you are an adventurous epicurean, the shark umai will be right up your alley. Strips of shark fillets are marinated in a combination of chillies, ginger, lime and onions. Once the flesh transforms from translucent to opaque, it's ready to be eaten. This is a Melanau dish that is now a common lunchtime 'lauk' served in most homes across Sarawak. The raw fish will absorb the citrusy juice and the chillies giving you a tangy and spicy hit with each mouthful. Eat it the traditional way- with some sago pearls. This is a great alternative to rice if you want to have a lighter meal. They serve both here.
Indai uses a lot of local produce in her kitchen. A frequent ingredients is the 'Terung Asam', loosely translated it means 'Sour Eggplant' but it doesn't have the spongy texture of an eggplant, instead it has a peach-like quality and a sour taste. Indai cooks this uniquely Sarawak vegetable with red tilapia. The sourness of the fruit adds a wonderful depth to the sweetness and earthiness of the fish.
The midin belacan here is also worth mentioning. Midin is a wild fern plant that has a crunchy texture and a light sliminess. Sautéed with belacan and eaten with warm rice, this is a classic Sarawakian dish.
This is a great place for you to try out tasty native food. They even have karaoke nights if you like to belt out some Iban ballads after your meal. They also sell homemade 'tuak' here to lubricate those vocal chords. They do serve pork here but you are welcome to bring your own meat and they will only charge for cooking. Call in advance if you like to do this.
Sumai Indai means 'mother's cooking' in Iban and that is exactly what you get here. Simple dishes with a home cooked feel.
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