Sarikei may be a small town but you may be passing by fascinating culture and heritage everyday without knowing it.
One interesting area for a cultural experience for you and visitors is the row of stalls next to the Bank Road bus terminal. Talk to the friendly stall owners and watch how they prepare the local produce for sale. Let your inquisitive mind wonder around the varied cornucopia of goods and do not be afraid to ask questions. It's a rewarding experience.
A coconut palm is one of the most versatile crop in Sarikei. Just about every part of the plant can be used. The leaves can be used for thatched roof and basketry. The stems are used to make brooms. The trunks are utilised in construction e.g. bridges. This is just to name a few usages.
The young coconut with its green husk has delicious gelatinous meat (endosperm) and refreshing coconut water. When the coconut has ripened, the outer husk will turn brown and it will fall from its tree in a few months. The meat will thicken and harden. The coconut water will have a slightly bitter taste.
The brown fiber from the coconut husk is called coir and is used in compost, ropes, mats, brushes, caulking boats and as stuffing fiber.
This old Malay lady was very friendly and energetic as she chopped off the fibre to reveal the shell of the coconut and its meat. Kids love to chew on the meat.
In the old days, the meat was grated manually over a round, toothed piece of metal. In Sarikei, this metal was attached to a piece of wood which you sat on over a chair to provide support for manual grating. Now it is done in a machine to produce coconut meat shavings. To get coconut milk (suntan in Malay), mix the shavings with water in a piece of white cloth and squeeze hard till you fart.
Where is coconut oil from? In the traditional wet process, coconut milk is allowed to rest and separate naturally. Since oil is lighter than water, the oil will rise to the surface in 12 to 24 hours. The oil can then be skimmed off for cooking or making margarine.
Coconut milk is an essential ingredient for delectable curry and Asian desserts. Bring on the irresistible chendol and ABC dessert!