Be entertained by tall tales of spirits and demons at the Melanau Tall House. Watch the step-by-step processing of sago and taste the finished products: Sago pearls and biscuits.
The Melanau people making up 5.8% of Sarawak's population, now mostly living in the central coastal region, were once more widely scattered. They traditionally lived near the sea within reach of pirates. As a means of protecting themselves, the Melanaus built massive houses forty feet above the ground.
The Melanaus differ from most other Borneo people in one important aspect: they eat Sago in preference to rice. Sago palms originally grew wild in the coastal swamps, and the Melanaus took it upon themselves to cultivate these plants. The ten-metre high palm trunk accumulates starch. It swells just before flowering indicating the right time for harvesting by felling.
The pith is grated to a fine mash. This is soaked in a long wooden trough, then trodden through a mat to leach out the sago starch. The off-white sediment settles at the bottom of the trough it is spread on mats to dry into lumps. These are broken up and finally ground into flour.