Heard of the term "Umai" before? I guess most Sarawakian would know what does it mean. It is actually a cuisine which is synonym to Melanau people in Sarawak.
I am sure lots of people are quite familiar with Japanese sashimi? Ya! If you know what Japanese sashimi is, then Umai is "Melanau's sashimi"! It is thinly sliced fish either eaten raw by dipped into a specially prepared sauce or marinated with calamondin lime, onions, chillies and some gingers.
Few types of fish can be used to prepare Umai, but the most common one is this Empirang fish with gold body color. It is not too hard to recognize this fish in the market. Why this fish? Well, honestly I am not sure. Maybe is because its flesh textures suitable to make Umai?
Basically preparing Umai is not too hard because at the end of the day, you just need to soak everything together for a short while before you can eat it. However, the hardest part is to prepare the fish! Yes, it certainly needs a very good skills to do so.
To prepare the fish, first of all of course you need to clear and clean the fish. Then the toughest part is here - fillet the fish! If you not use to carry the knife, well I guess it is difficult to do this. If I am doing this, I think I will end up cutting my own fingers!
After filleting, it is time to slice the fish into tiny pieces. Make sure you slice the Empirang fish in the correct direction or else you will end up eating sashimi with a lot of fish bones!
These are the finish-sliced fish meat ready to make Umai...
...but before that, here are some other ingredients you need to prepare...
.. and don't forget the calamondin lime juice! It is not easy to prepare as you can imagine how much juice you can get from a tiny calamondin.
Is there any easier way beside using this traditional and out dated technology to squeeze the lime juice? How much juice needed? Well, as long as it is enough to marinate everything in.
After the hard work... jeng jeng jeng... here is the final product! Just soak for a short while...
... and the delicious and unbeatable Umai is ready to be eaten!
Some people like to eat Umai as a dish for lunch or dinner but some prefer to eat it with Sago seeds/pearl.