In the next few weeks, East Malaysians will welcome some of the biggest celebrations on the island. For those in Sabah and Labuan, Tadau Kaamatan is celebrated annually on the 30th and 31st of May, while the Dayaks in Sarawak celebrate Hari Gawai on the 1st and 2nd of June.
While both are used to mark harvest festivals, they are distinctively different in tradition and rituals. Tadau Kaamatan honours the bonds between the creator and creations, told through the legend of a fair maiden named Huminodun who sacrificed herself by transforming her body into lush food and crops that saved humankind. Hari Gawai on the other hand, focuses on making offerings and rituals that represent the people’s gratitude for the bountiful harvest, celebrating people and spirits, and other representations of nature.
For Tadau Kaamatan and Hari Gawai which celebrates a good harvest, food is one of the most anticipated aspects of the celebration. This holiday, many of us look forward to gathering with family and friends and enjoying many good foods together. Did you know that deprivation of favourite holiday-only treats can lead to binge eating, resulting in accidental weight gain, stress, and anxiety? This is where practicing mindful snacking that calls for eating with intention and attention, focusing on the present moment, and savouring how the food tastes can help you beat overeating.
Here are five unique Sabah and Sarawak treats that are absolute must-try and how you can weave in mindful snacking habits while enjoying them:
1. Kuih Sarang Semut or Kuih Jala
Sarang Semut that translates to “ant’s nest” from Sarawak is similar to Kuih Karas in Peninsula Malaysia, made by frying long thin strings of glutinous rice flour, tapioca flour, and sugar mixture. The soft and slightly chewy snack – also known as Kuih Jala – is very much enjoyed by children and adults alike for its intriguing taste. We recommend you take a few moments to bite, chew and savour the unique crunchy texture of Kuih Sarang Semut that guarantees a more satisfying snacking experience.
Penganan from Sarawak is a traditional treat that is made by frying a mixture of rice flour, sugar, and coconut milk. This mini cake has a sweet and slightly salty taste, with a crispy exterior and a soft, chewy interior – perfect to jog your taste buds, hot or warm. Because it is a fried dish, practice moderation and portion control by savouring one piece at a time.
3. Hinompuka (Steamed Glutinous Rice Cake)
Hinompuka is a delicious Kadazan delicacy presented as a sticky rice cake wrapped in banana leaves. It is sweet and creamy with a chewy texture. Some recipes use coconut milk to add a rich creamy taste, while some use palm sugar for a sweet kick. Its unique flavour also comes from adding pandan extract, banana or grated yam to the mixture, making it an excellent dessert or snack choice for those who prefer subtler flavours. In addition to exercising portion control, elevate your senses by removing distractions when eating and slowing down your eating pace. Before reaching out for another hinompuka, check in with yourself to determine if you’re satisfied with the portion you just had.
Tebaloi or sago biscuits are a traditional food of the Melanau community, but are also in high demand from all over Borneo. Made from sago flour, coconut, sugar and eggs, tebaloi is available in a variety of interesting flavors and colors. Enjoy your pieces of tebaloi in modest portions while appreciating the unique texture, color and taste resulting from the firewood grill to enhance your gastronomic experience.
While often confused with mango, this Borneo specialty fruit has a thick brown skin and a distinct fragrance. It can be eaten ripe or harvested raw to be pickled with salt, grated bambangan seed, and snips of chilli to make dishes like Hinava Ginapan for Tadau Kaamatan. On its own, bambangan has a sour, tangy, and unique flavour, akin to mango or jackfruit. Whether you’re enjoying it raw, cooked or pickled, give each bite your full attention and enjoy the snacking moment longer.
Indulging in these mouth-watering snacks during Kaamatan and Gawai is a wonderful way to experience the rich cultural heritage of these festivals while satisfying your craving for something delicious. Because there is still much to taste and enjoy together, remember to be mindful of your snacking intentions – portion out your snack before eating and try to reduce or avoid distractions to help you truly enjoy your snacking experience. This can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and anytime.
Starting small during these festivities not only allows you to enjoy these treats to the fullest but also sets you on the path toward a better lifestyle. According to a report on global snacking habits from Mondelēz International, 78% of people today are more likely to take their time to savour indulgent snacks, and it’s also uplifting with 61% saying they take the time to portion their food before eating. Are you one of them too? You can learn more about mindful snacking habits and benefits by visiting www.snackmindful.com.