I Grew up in Ranau

 5°58’N 116°41’E. Thanks to Google Maps, I was able to look at my hometown from a different dimension; from a macroscale level and zooming in to such a beautifully sculptured landlocked district with a majestic hilly geographical structure. I wonder whose fault it is to spoil me with such remarkable childhood *winks to the sky*.

When I grew up, I also grew vertically and also horizontally with a palate of a T-Rex. Being the youngest in the family, I was trained to compete with my four siblings for that last piece of Sinalau Bakas (tantalising chewy grilled wild boar). One thing I am unabashedly proud to tell the whole world is that I feel blessed to grow up with financial crises always on the horizon. It was a blessing in disguise because not only did it strengthen my family’s bond, but it also taught me to value and appreciate my food to such a degree that I think now my mouth has an uncanny resemblance to a Hoover vacuum cleaner.

‘Bambangan’, my dad’s specialty.

Ranau is a good place to start your family and raise your kids. I can tell you that because your kids will be able to experience a myriad of chemical explosions in their mouth in the form of ‘ bosou’ (pickled raw fresh water fish or pork’s flesh that is mixed with rice,salt and pangi, a local herb, before pickled in a glass jar for about 2 weeks), ‘ bambangan’ (wild brown skin mangoes with a pungent smell), ‘pinasakan’ (simple dish comprised of braised basung fish with mashed tumeric, slices of bambangan and garlic) and ‘hinava’ (raw fish flesh mixed with lime juice,bird’s eye chilies, shallots and ginger – I regard as ceviche for the locals) .

Pinasakan, a simple but flavorful dish.

The aforementioned are just some of my ‘comfort food’ that I also considered as ‘soul food’ for the locals with tremendous sentimental values for me because Ranau is indeed a place where a carnivore like me morphed and converted into an omnivore. Being such a stereotype overweight brat, I detested vegetables since I first developed my recognition memory . However when recession strikes and food prices got higher, mum and dad had to resort to cheaper options (that were actually much better) such as eating local produce and growing our own crops.

Yam stalks, stir-fried or stewed
Yam stalks, stir-fried or stewed, is the bomb.

Amped with fertile soil and hills with perfect elevation, Ranau is perfect to grow many highland vegetables such as ‘parai nulu’. Also known as ‘padi bukit’, this traditionally produced ‘rice of the hill’ is produced on a small scale, thus contributing to its ability to retain moisture better and produces a fragrant smell to die for when cooked. Ranau night market’s also offer several cheap butdelicious local delights. Pygostyle or also colloquially known as pope’s nose or ‘buntut ayam’ is a hit at the night market. 4 or 5 of them will be stacked, skewered and grilled to perfection with optional ‘lada’ (normally consist of soy sauce,chilli and seasonings) .

       I also fell in love with ‘tuhau’, a wild ginger of a Rhizome family, when I grew up. Due to its strong smell, some people might not fancy smelling it first thing in the morning. However, in my household, my dad made it Eau de Fraiche in large batches for our monthly consumption. Due to its flexibility to be cooked, my dad could switch them up from ‘sambal tuhau’ (thinly diced wild ginger marinated withbird’s eye chillies, lime, salt and shrimp paste), ‘serunding tuhau (tuhau floss ) or ‘jeruk tuhau’ (‘fermented tuhau’ that are normally served with salted fish and rice ). The possibilities are endless and you can always improvise and tailor them accordingly. The infamous bugs-like putrid smell wil hauntingly linger in your mind from time to time. Trust me, once you are hooked, you will keep coming back for more .’Tuhau’ is actually the perfect accompaniment to any dish. Aside from adding them to add a zesty tanginess to my broth or soups, I sometimes add them to my instant noodles. I will highly recommend this local ratatouille to anyone who wants to be a a legit Sabahan.

‘Tuhau’, the versatile wild ginger of Sabahan.

“All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted”. I will never forget where I come from because it makes me who I am today. What about you, what makes you who you are today?

jeanette family
My creative Kadazan Masterchef;my dad and my sister.
Me doing my all time favourite extreme sports.

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Jeannette Jeffrey

Jeannette is a GastroGnome based in Kota Kinabalu. Feel free to say hello or read her nom-nomings at sabahfoods.wordpress.com

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