22 June 2011

The perfect 'tapai'

My mom was becoming very restless. She's been here about a week, with the intent of helping me out with the kids' breakfast and lunch boxes while I recuperate from my operation just over a week ago. So I asked her to make some tapai (rice-wine), since I have some beras pulut (glutinous rice) and sasad (yeast,) leftover from my last effort (that would be months ago). (Being me, I can't help but feel that tradition should be carried out by those who can, no matter that I don't drink alcoholic drinks myself).

The tapai-making session turned out to be an eye-opener for me. Strange, I thought I knew all there was to know about making tapai. Turned out that like any other type of learning, it's a continuous process.

The first comment I got from Mom was "you need a proper cooling-mat" (which would ideally be a recycled sugar or rice sack, the white woven type that normally holds 50kg of rice). Mom said that if you don't cool the cooked rice properly, there's a chance that the tapai would turn sour instead of bitter or bitter-sweet. Because I don't have one of those, she had to be contented with using my rilibu (winnowing basket).

Her second comment was that I was not supposed to store my yeast in the fridge, even though they are in an air-tight container. "The best tapai can only be produced by using properly-dried yeast", said Mom. She took the bunch of yeast out and dried them under the sun-thankfully the sun shone gloriously yesterday.

She cooked 5kg of beras pulut in my giant rice-cooker (and complained that the fragrance of the rice would have been much nicer cooked in a large pot on a hearth over suduon (firewood)). After, she let the rice cool on the winnowing basket, and hours later, after the bunch of yeast were crisp from the sun, she put them in a zipped bag, and crush them with a rolling-pin. (In her own place, she would have used a custom-made pestle for that purpose). She mixed the yeast with the rice well, and stored them in two of my empty jars.

A month from now, the tapai would be good to consume, either as siopon (to be taken straight from the tajau using a straw) or lihing (rice-wine.

Mom's tapai has always been perfect, while mine varies from bitter to sourish. Good thing the lesson she gave had made me aware of the reason for the sourish taste now.


Gunaqz said...

Hi Verone,
The oldies in my community believe the taste of tapai is also depending on 'the hands' of the person who scatter the yeast onto the rice. I remember my paternal grandmother would divide her rice into different portions before lining us kids up, asking us to scatter the yeast on our designated portion each.

She then would put each portion into separate rice sacks, marking them (so she remember which one is which). After 3-4 day (or until the rice warmed up --you can feel it by touching the sack), she would then transfer them into jars.

After a month, she would gladly report to us the result of our tapai. I am always the 'sour' ones. tsk! Her favourite was my late brother. apparently 'his hands' were good because his tapai(s) tasted bitter.

I also remember she would ask if we have been touching or consumed lime/lemon/pineapple or anything sourish that day before letting us scatter the yeast. Those who had would be 'bribed' 50cents not to do the yeast scattering job. She believed the tapai would take after the sour taste, thus the checking. We usually lied to her. It would be a big shame being left behind in that 'fun competition'. LOL

My father doesn't believe it, though. He said there are scientific explanations for everything, including why our tapai taste differ from one another, albeit using the same batch of yeast. Oh well. Who am I to argue with a science teacher!

(Oh Verone, I think I'm the only one who leave comments worth an entry long on your blog! I can't help it. Being a country Dusun girl,I always have something to say on all your topics!)

Tina said...

I enjoyed your 'entry' too, Gunaqz!

I've never been a tapai drinker, Verone, although I did make tapai a few times when I was a kid. The description I included in my book really happened. We spooned the warm rice onto a mat (sinambung) and spread it thinly before sprinkling the pounded sasad over the cooled rice.

Nowadays I make only the sweet tapai to eat as a dessert. The sasad seller (a Bajau) told me not to put it next to my limes to prevent the tapai from turning sour. But i guess the sourness won't be able to jump through the plastic bags so I paid no heed to the advice. Anyway, the resulting tapai is super sweet and I sometimes wondered if some kind of sweetening has been added to the sasad! BTW, I keep my yeast in the fridge!

Going back to the tapai for drinking... my mother always poured out a bit of tapai from a newly opened jar. When I asked her why, she said it was to say 'hilo ko koluor tian' and other penyakit. But I read somewhere it was to give the first sips to the spirits!

Get well soon!

Verone said...

Hi Gunaqz,
I love your comments :) and we have that country-girl thing in common! Looks like my mom is carrying on your grandmother's tradition. She has started asking my children to do the making-tapai 'trial'. She has endorsed my eldest girl as having a honey-tasted palm. How funny is that? And I play along because it is fun. As for me, since I was young, Mom says I have been the bitter-palm type. Never can make bosou! Maybe you can, with your sour sasadan!

the no-yeast in a fridge theory doesn't work then! I can never make sweet tapai. The other day my students asked me to make them sweet-tapai for dessert at our end-of-semester gathering. My attempt was disastrous! Turned out to be bile bitter. Mind sharing your recipe in one of your entries next time?

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Verone, I enjoyed reading this posting as I love dogs.
Cute dogs too....pity about Gurod's broken leg.
I guess people love dogs.
There is a saying, if you want a friend, get a dog.

But the ones I had were all trained guard dogs.
Two German Shepherds, later two Dobermans.
And I'd name them Brandy and Whisky, ha ha.
They were imported from Germany, and highly trained not to take prisoners.

Where we stayed robberies, home invasions, rapes were rampant.
My house was the only one untouched. And I was seldom home too, only my maid.
Nobody fools around with a trained Doberman.
Kopivosian do doungadau. Gompizon no iso nozou di ginavo nu.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting your mom's detail on making tapai. Do you think you'd be able to share a step by step process on how she does it? I've been looking to learn how to do it :)

Mackley George said...

Thanks Verone with the very useful information of making tapai :').. I am currently doing some research about this kind of home made alcohol beverages including its value, contents, microbial growth, components of ragi (sasad) and trying to find some traditional story / historical information about this Tapai :') I just want to share, different sasad has a different components depending from where it was made (different local area). Contamination may occur (always) during the process of Tapai Fermentation but somehow, not damaging the taste of the tapai because i believe (in concept) that the sugar contents in the tapai liquid are being overpowered by the yeast / fungi who are involved during the fermentation. The bacteria (which causing contamination) remain dormant withing the tapai environment and live depending on the waste (may be) and other desired contents. Yeast such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae involves during the Rice / Tapai / Tape Fermentation and used up the carbohydrates (sugar especially).

That is why, the amount on Sasad (ragi) must be seleran / relevant with the amount of gantang / put of rice. In addition, in a scientific way, the bottles must be cleaned well wthout any dropped of water trapped. the trapped water inside will also cause contamination because the bacteria present in the trapped water. that is why, the taste somehow 'sour' and 'bitter' (other aspect from traditional perspectives). If the taste is too sweeties (sweet), somehow, the amount of sasad (ragi) is too much and not / could not balance with the amount of rice during fermentation (too much sugar released / breakdown during fermentation process).

anyway, this is just a sharing and subjectives (no citation and no proof it right). Just for mere information. Thanks again.

Crisabel : hope someday i can give you the link of making method :')

Adrian Eboy said...

Hi Cris, if ur interested i can teach u for free. I believe that this kind of knowledge should be thought to every sabahan out there.
Can email me at adrianeboy87@gmail.com