24 November 2009


While I've never been a good drinker, nor I will ever be one, I have an appreciation for all things traditional. Lihing is one of them. Although I don't drink lihing as a beverage, I do love its flavor in chicken soup. To the Dusuns, lihing is an essential confinement food. (In fact my mom-in-law and my mom conspired to make me have lihing soup with 'kampung chicken' (uncaged chicken) every day for two weeks on my confinements, even though they know I am not a 'kampung chicken' eater! )

Anyway, back to lihing. This particular one in the picture above is my family's small business venture (again described in the other pic). My mom is the producer, of course. From making the sasad (yeast), to cooking the pulut (glutinous rice), to bottling the wine, she does everything the traditional way. (My aunts lend a hand too of course- I've never seen such united female siblings as my mom and her sisters :-)).

I'd have preferred the lihing to be bottled in glass bottles instead of the plastic bottles that they use. It's not good for the environment. But I guess it is easier and cheaper for my mom to get plastic bottles supply.

My mom's lihing has a special bittersweet flavour. We use vinometer to test the alcohol content, and it is approximately 23%. (that's my tentative finding, which will be tested further the first chance I have next). Basically lihing is produced this way: cook some glutinous rice, scoop it out and spread to cool on a clean plastic cover on top of a clean table, pound some yeast, and when the rice is cooled off, spread the yeast all over it. Store in jars or big buckets with tight lids. Leave to ferment for at least a week, but of course the longer you leave it, the better. My mom's rule of thumb is a month. After a month, tip out the wine into a water container, and transfer to bottles, ready for consumption.

I grew up seeing the process that I think I can actually do it blindfolded. It was a mixed feeling when I was growing up. At one point I felt like my mom's business is offensive, since ...come on, this is Malaysia, people shouldn't consume alcohol. Then I realized that just because some people can't consume, it doesn't mean that it is wrong to have this business. After all, Dusuns still need lihing at least for confinement. And we keep it within the consumer circle anyway. Now I am at peace with lihing and fully intend to pass on the lihing making knowledge to the future generation. Teach them culture and teach them the sense of responsibility, and our world will continue to be a happy little place.

08 November 2009

Bunsuton: a Dusun myth

Last night I went to see the Joseph Ashton's family circus with the family. Since it was my first time seeing a real circus performing, I was in awe of the many acts they performed, esp the acrobatic feats.The 7th generation of Ashtons lives up to their reputation. I am indeed impressed.

Anyway, having been brought up with the Dusun tale 'bunsuton', I cringed a bit to watch the cute dogs performing. One of them, obviously a girl wore a cute pink mini-skirt, and they all did amazing tricks.

Back to bunsuton- in the Dusun folklore, there is this story about a community who made a dog and a cat dance together. While the two poor creatures were dancing, the members of the community supposedly laughed their hearts out at that. A young bride from the community who was fetching water met a creature with horns as sharp as axe, who asked her to ask the people to stop their silly entertainment, or else the creature would cause them harms. The bride did as she was asked but no one listened to her. The creature then ordered her to run away from the place with her husband, and using its sharp horns, caused some kind of landslide and flood, and killed all the people who made fun of the animals.

Of course this is merely a myth, but it is so ingrained in me that I had to hold myself from laughing out loud to see the cute tricks of the dogs :-)

I guess what this really tells is that we have to respect animals. I can appreciate the moral of the story though I think the punishment that the people received was a bit too harsh :-)