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As-sam (Bornean Bamboo-Cooked Rice With Hen) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Utilizing contemporary bamboo as a cooking vessel provides a novel vegetal taste to the as-sam.
  • The hen juices infuse the rice in a sealed atmosphere with minimal evaporation, sustaining a moistness that’s redolent with the essence of hen.

When open flames hit contemporary, inexperienced bamboo, a definite grassy perfume emerges—one which jogs my memory of Borneo, an island within the southwestern Pacific Ocean that’s cut up into Malaysian and Indonesian territories and residential to the Bidayuh folks, one in every of many indigenous teams in Borneo which might be collective known as Dayak. Cooking in bamboo is the important thing to as-sam, a country, hearty Bidayuh dish made from rice and hen, and spiced with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and black pepper. The entire combination is packed right into a tube of bamboo, sealed with pandan leaves, and slowly roasted over open flames. The hen juice infuses the rice, making them plump, moist, and aromatic, and the open flames lends every chew a touch of smokiness. 

Critical Eats / Michelle Yip


As-sam is above all else sustaining, filling the stomach and warming the center with easy flavors and elements from the land. My grandmother, a no-nonsense persona fast with a pointy phrase but delicate together with her arms, would stuff the hen and rice combination deftly into the bamboo and loudly clamor for somebody to gentle the fireplace. Within the conventional rural family of my mom’s childhood, there was at all times one thing to do, and my mom was typically saddled with the duty of helping my grandmother with making as-sam.

Dayak Delicacies

Historically, Dayak communities—the indigenous inhabitants of Borneo—rely closely on foraging and farming. In lots of rural villages, it’s nonetheless a really large a part of life in a land that, whereas fertile, could be cruel. Carbohydrates like rice, cassava, and sago, together with proteins like freshwater fish, function closely in Dayak delicacies, whereas meat like hen and pork is taken into account a luxurious reserved for particular events and festivals.

Critical Eats / Michelle Yip


As a result of meat is seldom used and extremely valued, starches and greens typically assist to stretch meaty dishes additional. As-sam may be very a lot an instance of this: Hearty bits of savory hen meat and pungent spices enrich plain rice, and it’s all packed in bamboo, a handy receptacle that doubles as each cooking vessel and storage container. It may be carried on lengthy treks, for instance, then cut up open and the meals inside served when desired.

Getting Bamboo-zled

For first timers, it could be—may I say—bamboozling to search out you could prepare dinner with bamboo, however nothing says indigenous Bornean cooking prefer it. Bamboo is a grass that grows like big weeds all throughout the island. For so long as fireplace has been used to prepare dinner meals right here, the bamboo has been its associate, and over time, has grow to be ubiquitous with a lot of Dayak cooking, tradition, structure, and historical past.

In the event you’ve ever seen bamboo, you will have observed that the hole stalk—or “culm” in botanical terminology—is split into segments by strong joints referred to as nodes, every of which seals one section from one other. To reap a bamboo culm for cooking, one cuts out a bit with just one node nonetheless connected on one finish to yield a tube that’s closed on one finish (the place the node is) and open on the opposite. The result’s a ready-made vessel that is inexperienced and cylindrical.

Critical Eats / Michelle Yip


In Borneo, a kind of bamboo referred to as buru’ is used for cooking, although many sorts of bamboo can work. Completely different dimensions and sizes of bamboo are chosen relying on the kind of meals being cooked. What makes buru good for cooking is its comparatively skinny partitions, which permit warmth to penetrate shortly. The right buru is neither too younger nor too outdated, contemporary sufficient to not burn when it’s licked by flames, and mature sufficient to not rupture when heated. If searching for bamboo to do this cooking technique by yourself, search for crops which might be a darkish inexperienced shade with a few half-centimeter wall thickness and seven-centimeter diameter.

Critical Eats / Michelle Yip


Beware although, some bamboo is roofed in nice white hairs that can trigger you to itch like loopy if they arrive into contact along with your pores and skin. To take away the hairs, vigorously wipe the culm with the bamboo’s personal leaves. It is also vital to rinse the within of the culm to take away any mud. If not used instantly, fill the culms with water as much as the rim to maintain them contemporary for about 5 days.

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