Today I am going to walk down the memory lane, again. I am going to share my 1st time intoxicated experience.
It happened when I was 10. Yes, you read that correctly. I was still a minor. No, I didn’t slip into any bar/club or joints selling alcoholic beverages. It happened at a longhouse, during Gawai festival. When I was a kid, I stayed at this place called ‘Jalan Hua Tai’ in Sarikei and many of the adjoining neighbours are of Iban etnicity. At that time, I knew jack shit about Iban language or customs and prior to that, I had never been to a longhouse.
The neighbours were friendly folks. I learned to speak Iban language from them, especially from this two big sisters, staying few rows from my place. That’s how I learnt to converse in Iban language, from them and other Iban friends staying nearby. After ‘mastering’ the language, I used it to impress Iban girls. Muahahaha!
I remember the first Iban sentence I learned is “Gamal dik” (literally: “your face”). More often, it is used to ridicule and make fun of a person, it is like the Manglish version of “your head lah”. Probably the actual proper meaning is “look at your face in the mirror, 1st”. Haha! I have no idea how to translate it to English, but I know how to use it. For example:
Syam: Aku rasa aku nie jambu giler… (I think I am damn good looking)
Yam: Gamal dik!
The two sisters kept saying that to me, when I said something stupid and when I asked other Iban friends what is “gamal” (I knew what is “dik” already that time) they told me it means “face”. So what’s wrong with my face, I wondered. LOL! Lesson learnt – Don’t take words at face value.
The two sisters were staying there because they were studying at Sarikei town and their “kampung” (village) is a bit too far from town, hence it’s inconveniece for them to travel down to town everyday. So every weekend or during holiday period, they would be back to their “kampung“, in this case, their “rumah panjang“. (longhouse)
One day, most probably on Friday evening when I was playing in front of the house, I saw them packing their things into a pick up truck, driven by their father. I stood nearby and watched, when their father came to me and asked “Nuan ka enggau kami pulai ke rumah, Ah Siong?” (You want to follow us back home?) I immediately said yes and went to my room, grabbed few clothes and I went off! Before that, I told my younger sister and brother to tell my mother (she was still at work) that I was going to rumah panjang with the neighbours, for a week. (Because it’s a long school holiday starting the next week)
It happened to be at that time, it was during Gawai Dayak festival that I followed them to rumah panjang. I enjoyed my first Gawai Dayak experience and I had my first alcoholic drink in my life also during that time. (Well, Anglia Shandy doesn’t count, I had that many times when I was a kid during Chinese New Year)
I had ‘tuak’ (an alcoholic beverage made of fermented rice, yeast and sugar), given by the Iban folks. They gave me the less potent type of tuak – those not brewed long enough. I remember first time tasting it – it was sweet, less transparent, bit murky and white in colour bit, just like barley water. I was thinking, “What a weird-smell-taste like syrup drink. Yucks!” Not a good first impression of this famous local alcoholic beverage.
There are many grades of tuak, depending on how long you brew it, and of course, the quality of the ingredient. You can have the sweet type, or dry and strong. I hate the sweet type, I will tell you why later. Before that, a little bit on tuak making from my I heard from Iban friends and gathered from the internet, ehe!
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN TUAK!
Ingredients: Glutinous rice, round yeast, slice yeast.
Glutinous rice is cooked and left to cool in a ‘tapan’ or any flat utensils.
You need a ratio of 1:1 for the ingredients. Say, for every 5 kg of glutinous rice you will need 5 kg of round ‘ragi’ (yeast) (round ‘ball’ type) and 5 pieces of thin slice ragi (flat ‘disc’ type). (round ragi for bitterness, slice ragi for sweetness). The yeast are pounded into powder and then mixed with the cooked glutinous rice (after it left to cool)
This mixture is then left to ferment in any clean container (jar) for a week or so. Cool, boiled water plus sugar(syrup) is added to this mixture. (10 kg sugar for 20 liters of water) Depending on your taste, your tuak is now ready. If you prefer you can wait another week.
The longer you keep your tuak the more potent it will be. A small glass is enough to send the unaccustomed to euphoric heights. You can tell the ‘potent-ness’ from the colour. Murky, white colpur like soy bean or barley water, that’s the least potent tuak, normally fresh from the jar.
It takes months to years as the colour changes to colourless, transparent like white wine and that is more potent tuak. If you keep it long enough (many years, say 10 years or more) it changes to dark brown, reddish colour like tea.
Bottles of tuak on display. See the differences in colour?
Matured, old tuak. Or probably just tea. (Photo stolen from Flickr)
Just drinking tea..
There is another super potent type of tuak, the distilled version, which is called “langkau” (Moonshine?). The same ingredients above, you distill it and you get langkau. Transparent in colour, just like mineral water, but I am damn sure after you drink the ‘very good stuff’, your head will start spinning at that moment. Fast and furious. How lethal? Just imagine Vodka with 5 times extra boost. (quoting a forumer, somewhere).
For a beginner 2-3 glasses is enough to knock you down for a half day. It’s distilled spirit and normally with more than 50% alcohol content, for god’s sake!
I tasted it once, also when I was a kid (12 years old?) at another neighbour’s house. We were playing cards, and the auntie offered me a small glass of this transparent-looks-like-drinking-water drink. I took a sip, and looked at the television, the pictures blurred instantly. LOL! Needless to say, I went back home and slept for the rest of the evening.
I like my tuak dry and strong. I don’t like it sweet, because of one bad experience. Yes, during that very first visit to the longhouse and experienced Gawai Dayak festival for the time, I had quite some glasses of sweet tuak. By the night, my head was spinning and I puked not long after.
The aftermath taste in my mouth and nose, I couldn’t decribe that yucky taste. Sweet, yet gross, puke-y smell. It’s like you puke after drinking a lot of fruit syrup. Puke is already disgusting, but sweet tasting puke? Ughhh!!! Since then, I rarely take sweet alcohol, if I have my way.
ps: How’s your new year eve celebration? Sober?
pss: Go and make your own tuak now!
psss: Green theme, is to support the KT by-election meh!