Pinggai Cafe, one of few eateries in town that serve authentic Dayak dishes

By Emma Victoria

IF you are looking for Dayak food, the kind served in longhouses during Gawai and Christmas celebrations, there is one place you must not miss – the Pinggai Café at Carpenter Street, Kuching.

The cafe, opened in 2018, was one of the few eateries in town that serves dishes like Manok Pansuh, Dayak-styled slow firewood barbecued pork and Daun Empasak Goreng (stir-fried tapioca leaves).

They also serve tempoyak (fermented durian) dabai fried rice, midin salad, bamboo and coconut shoot chicken as well as the traditional creamy glutinous rice.

Cynthia and Lis

Pinggai Café, owned by Dayak siblings, Lis Banda and her sister, Cynthia Ban always ensure the freshness of their ingredients in preparing their meals, with the recipes passed down for generations.

Lis said they go to the market as early as 4am, to get the best available cuts of meat for their best seller – the Dayak BBQ pork and also fresh chicken for their Manok Pansuh.

The sisters, in their 30s, wanted to prepare and serve meals that taste just the way their grandmother’s and mother’s cooking did.

Besides, they want to promote the Dayak-Iban food heritage.

“Our dishes are mostly based on Dayak cuisine, some with a little bit of fusion. This is what has been served in our families, and from every place that we have been to. We tried to recreate them and infuse our own concept, into our dishes.

“We wanted our customers to feel as if they are having a meal back at their kampung or home, cooked by their families despite them being in the state’s capital,” Lis said.

“To maintain the quality and ensure that our food tastes like the original, we go to the market early in the morning or source for ingredients from our own farm

“Sometimes, we will trek into the woods to source ingredients to make our glutinous rice or pulut,” she said.

Lis said the firewood BBQ pork is a must-have at every Dayak family celebration while the Manok (chicken) Pansuh is a dish prepared by cooking chicken meat in a bamboo stalk, filled with water, seasonings and covered with tapioca leaves.

Lis shared that Pinggai means plate in the language of the Dayak-Iban, the largest community in Sarawak, and their cafe was a reflection of their people.

She added that although they experienced a drop in sales during the MCO period, business quickly picked up when they reopened. “We are glad that our local customers of all races love and enjoy our Dayak food.