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Sunday, December 16, 2012


If you want to eat sago worm (bL), ulat mulong or siet in Melanau raw or fried, experience it at Mukah. It is likened to a 'micro-cow' because of its high protein (17%) content and plenty of fat.

The heartland of sago palms (aR) in Malaysia is in the Mukah district of Sarawak. An there also is found the heartland of the Melanaus especially around Mukah, Balingian, Igan and Dalat. They cultivate sago in the swamps and along river banks providing them income, food, shelter and material culture. Their culture has co-evolved around sago as evidenced in their dance and music also.

Usually one can buy live siets in plastic packets at the daily market (aL) at Mukah. To buy a kilo is expensive at RM25! The pasar is just by the river bank (aR).

The worms are actually caterpillars of kumbang sagu (striped beetle). The beetle bore boles in harvested sago logs floating in the river (aL) or rotting trunks in the farm and lay their eggs which hatched into caterpillars. Enterprising villagers would rear them in sago fibre waste (aR).

The fried ones (aL), with butter, salt and chilli api taste better and crunchy. To eat a live one, grip its head with two fingers, bite off the body, munch and swallow. The head is discarded. Ah, I have quite forgotten the taste! It was years ago. There are cases eating them raw can cause allergic reactions - rashes, vomitting and fever.

Another kind of leaf-eating caterpillars of seasonal availability usually fried and eaten (aR), has bitter taste and not as good as the fried grubs.

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