Gastronomy tourism is increasingly popular and all the regions of Asia are keener than ever to highlight culinary delights to visitors. Sarawak (East Malaysia, Borneo Island) is no exception to it. In parallel, gastronomy tourism represents an opportunity for the State to highlight its ethnic diversity -the State has more than 40 sub-ethnic groups! – and community tourism as well as to promote the unique heritage of Borneo rainforest.
Among the special events promoting jungle culinary is Pesta Nukenen Bario or the Bario Food and Culture Festival 2015. The event started on July 30 and will last until August 1st. taking place in the small city of Bario (900 people), the “capital city” of the Kelabit Highlands, home of the and this very unique and special event will showcase the stunning and amazing highland culture of Sarawak Borneo. This year also showcases the 10th anniversary of the festival celebrating the culinary and cultural heritage of the Kelabit Highlands. Kelabit people represents one of Sarawak smallest ethnic group with a population of only 4,800 individuals in the State. Kelabit people live 30 minutes away by flight from Miri in Eastern Sarawak and close to the border to Indonesia’s Kalimantan. Western influence is still limited due to the relative isolation of the Kelabit population
At Bario, visitors can expect authentic Kelabit food prepared by highly skillful local chefs who have carried the recipes from generation to generation. The beauty about the local dishes here is seeing how they are prepared in longhouses, Kelabit traditional dwelling.
The history of the Bario food Festival dates back 10 years ago in 2005 where the main principle objective was to recover the traditional processing methods of the Kelabit highland people which includes indigenous edible plants and wildlife.
This food festival is considered to be one of the world’s most unique festival due to the overall culinary process and experience. Because Bario is not an easy place to reach in the highlands, this resulted in the locals having kept century-old tradition and recipes safeguarded. The idea is to recreate and protect
However, with modernization, many of the younger generation have moved from the highlands to the fast moving city life and hence less people are getting involved in this process.
Kelabit food is more of a slow food which is processed from the blend of diverse ingredients found in the Highlands and in the forest and which are not available anywhere else. Among Kelabit authentic dishes are Nuba’ Laya’ , a softened rice wrapped in banana leaf and Labo Belatuh, a smoked meat done in Kelabit style.
The Pesta Nukenen Bario is a unique opportunity not only to enjoy an exceptional cuisine, unknown outside the region, and learn more about Kelabit lifestyle. Moving towards a carnival like atmosphere, visitors can see traditional dances, games and even music of the Kelabits.
Pesta Nukenen is organised by the Rurum Kelabit Sarawak, the Kaum Ibu and Belia Bario and supported by Alde Valley Food Adventures UK, the Sarawak Tourism Board and the Sarawak State Government.