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Sarawak, Borneo...what headhunters eat here

Dr Iain F. Clayre, a retired missionary from Edmonton, Alberta, wrote to us about his food adventures:

I listened with some amusement to your story about Norwegian sheep cheek (Oct 28/31), especially as I can understand Norwegian from my Danish background. I spent five years among the headhunters of Borneo in the late 1960s, up in the central highlands of Sarawak. You will be glad to know that they no longer took heads as trophies. They did, however, make two kinds of "jaroc", a wild pig-meat and a fish jaroc. (more after the jump)

Dr. Clayre continues...

 Chunks of either were stuffed into a hollow bamboo (which, out there, can be easily 6 inches in diameter) with alternate layers of local salt produced by boiling the water from particular springs in the forest.

A clay bung was stuffed into the top and the whole buried in the ground for some months. When it was dug up for eating, it tasted not unlike a ripe gorgonzola cheese.

 Later I went back to Sarawak as an academic linguist to a people called the Melanau, who live along the coast rather than inland, and I thought you might like to hear about some of their delicacies. When the sea-prawn is not in season they catch the grubs of the sago palm beetle and fry them. These are about the size of an adult's thumb, and surprisingly tasty.

They will occasionally eat one raw while harvesting them, but it is important to first twist off the head which has a three-tooth drill attached to it by which it would, when mature, have bored its way into the trunk of the sago palm.

They also harvest 50cm long garret worms from rafts of logs they anchor in the brackish water where the rivers meet the sea, and cook them up like live spaghetti. I confess I preferred the sago grubs.


Nacha Raman's documentary on Norwegian "smalahove", or sheep's head...
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