The Sarawak Malay couple, the men will wear Malay Cakak Musang with Kain Songket. The woman in Belanga Bay’s head brackets, the head decorated with a cloak was covered with a sling on the shoulders. The Sarawak Malay women dressed brocade brocade Baju Kurung, Kain Sarong Songket Bunga Tabur, Selayah Kerengkam and Selempang Songket.



1. Amanah Khairat Yayasan Budaya Melayu Sarawak, www.melayusarawak.org.my

Laksa Sarawak 

The Sarawak Laksa is 100 percent different from the laksa-laksa in the Peninsula Malaysia both in terms of ‘mee’ or noodles used as well as its broth. Laksa Sarawak, although the broth looks like a curry, but is not really like a curry noodle flavor. Laksa Sarawak contains fat taste and it is mixed with boiled chicken meat, half cooked bean curd, boiled shrimp, fried egg slice and few other ingredients. When served, Laksa Sarawak is served along with sambal belacan and lemon musk.

Ikan Terubok Masin 

It is not complete to go to Sarawak without buying the Ikan Terubuk. Ikan Terubuk is not so salty as salty fish and has a pretty aroma. Ikan Terubuk Sarawak is one of the most popular products among tourists visiting Kuching, Sarawak. Tourists especially from the Peninsular Malaysia will definitely buy them as ‘ole-ole’ or take home souvenir before leaving Kuching.

Kek Lapis

Kek Lapis Sarawak is one of the most popular cakes in Sarawak. Kek Lapis Sarawak or layer cakes is very popular at many festive celebrations in Sarawak such as Hari Raya, Christmas, Gawai Dayak, and not to mention Chinese New Year. This cake has dozens of patterns and each type has its own name created by the person who created the pattern of the cake. The price of Kek Lapis Sarawak layer cakes also depends on the size, type of pattern and the difficulty of making the cake. So the bigger, the more complicated the patterns, the harder it is to be made, the more expensive the cake is. Types of Kek Lapis Sarawak layer cakes such as rolls cake, Kipas, Batik Jawa, crystal, Aiskrim Anika, Tulip, Ketumpat and Bintik-Bintik.

Bubur Pedas 

In Sarawak, Bubur Pedas is among the foods that are often associated with the Malay Muslim community. This diet is especially popular during the fasting month. When it comes to Ramadan, this food is readily available at the Ramadan Bazaar which is open in strategic areas either in the city, market, town and village in Sarawak. Indeed, various types of ingredients are included in Bubur Pedas according to creativity of the cook and how easy it is to get the material at any one time. The modern recipe of Bubur Pedas today incorporates a mix of corn, cabbage flowers, peanuts, chicken slices and even sausages.



1. Amanah Khairat Yayasan Budaya Melayu Sarawak, www.melayusarawak.org.my

Gambir Sarawak

Gambir Sarawak, or scientific name: Uncaria Gambir, is a plant that is produced from gambir tree wood sap which is abundant in Sarawak state forest, Malaysia. It is also known as Born, Gambier, Borneo Cat’s claw, Una de Gato and Kerangas. It is found in thick woods in the interior of Long Panai, Marudi, Sarawak. The effectiveness of the Sarawak gambir has been known for centuries especially for the people in Sarawak. Larger use of gambier has spread to all states in Peninsular Malaysia but to some neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore. The effect of the use has proven to be remarkable and cheaper than most high-cost modern medicines. Gambir Sarawak is very effective for relieving toothache. Easy way to use just to crush the gambir into a fine powder then put in a hollow molars. About 5 minutes later the teeth will feel throbbing and the pain of the teeth will gradually disappear gradually.

Gambir Sarawak can also be used for circumcision children. The method of use is by crushing the gambier until smooth and then mixed with some water and applied to the genitals of the child. The effect of the use of the gambier is that it can become numb and painful. Its function is almost the same as anesthetics but the use of Sarawak’s gambir is quite warm when exposed to the skin. In addition, this Sarawak gambir can be used to relieve temporary illness before being taken to hospital as exposed to poisonous venomous animals such as snakes, scorpions or sting of fish such as catfish, salted fish and so on.

Gambir Sarawak received a warm welcome but no commercially large-scale sale. Most small traders sell this product in the night market, sidewalks, street edges. Perhaps because this product has not yet been approved by the Ministry of Health Malaysia, it is not commercially and widely distributed. The Sarawak gambir price (Peninsular Malaysia) ranges from RM10 to RM20 but it is cheaper if bought in Sarawak. Due to the warm welcome in Peninsular Malaysia, traders take advantage of raising prices at their will as they realize how difficult it is to get the gambir supply here. For the rural people in Borneo they use the Sarawak gambir to get rid of the pain when making the ear hole (piercing). This method is the same as anesthetics to reduce the pain during the piercing process. The popularity of Sarawak gambir began to rise when the use of the gambier was very effective for couples in intimate contact. Many men who are looking for Sarawak gambir are in the market solely to satisfy their spouse in intimate relationships.



1. Amanah Khairat Yayasan Budaya Melayu Sarawak, www.melayusarawak.org.my

The Sarawak River Delta is the main site where thousands of ceramic fragments have been discovered and excavated since 1948. Mostly dated from the 11th century to 13th. This fragment is believed to have originated from China and partly from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Europe. 

The earliest ceramics found and excavated are from the western Niah Cave mouth. These ceramics are in the form of non-carved jars or containers, round bottles and containers. All the pottery items were made of handmade, hard and burned with moderate fire. According to a study by Barbarra Harrison, many of these former ceramics are related to the neolithic funeral ceremony as a container for cremation or as a burial souvenir. 

All excavation artifacts are a useful source of learning in the Sarawak Museum. These artifacts are classified into 9 main classes based on the color of the pastels/glaze and the structure.



1. Amanah Khairat Yayasan Budaya Melayu Sarawak, www.melayusarawak.org.my

Introduction: Divsion To Malay Archipelago

Humans have arrived at the Malay Archipelago in the Stone Age, 70,000 years ago from Africa. They have traveled since 120,000 years ago eastward across what is now known as Arabia, Persia, India and the Malay Archipelago before China to the north and Australia to the south. Among the main islands of that time were Sumatra, Peninsular, Java and Borneo. There is a place where the Stone Age is in the process of adventure and the cultivation of certain territories until all the islands and continents on this planet are inhabited. In addition there are also people of this Stone Age who live and socialize in a region and create their own culture which eventually creates the nation and its own civilization.

Malays & Archipelago Malay

Those who continue to live for thousands of years on hundreds of islands and capitals in Malay Archipelago become Malays. Similarly in other regions such as India and China have created more advanced civilizations. In the Malay nation, as well as in other nations, there are various tribes that have common characteristics of a similar culture, such as the language called Malayo-Polynesia. The Niah cave in the north of Borneo has a 40,000-year-old Lady of the Stone Age and is one of the three most important evidences in the world about humanity in the past.

Borneo: One of the Largest Island

The largest island located in the middle of the Malay Archipelago is known as Borneo in conjunction with the name of the Barunai Malay kingdom which has been in contact with China at 860ES (Era Now). As an island with a strategic position, Borneo alone is sure to start from the coast and not from the interior. In this Stone Age what if their Malay creations as well as contemporary humans are primitive stone age communities.

Originated From The Sea 

The movement of man whether adventure and trade in the Stone Age in the Malay Archipelago is using the ocean passage by boat and ship. The Malay Archipelago’s position among the major Chinese civilizations in the east and Inda in the west encourages the flow of diverse knowledge and culture that must be modified with local policy to create Malay civilization itself. Circumstances that took place brought about a change to this Malay nation; Among the important is the acceptance of Hinduism which is then modified as well as then Buddhism. By the 11th century Islam was spread and became the heritage of the Malays at this time. The Malays who did not change in the era of the Borneo coast were isolated by moving to the interior and increasingly separated from the changing times of foreign civilization through the sale of the sea and the river. The marginalized Malays then create their own cultures as various tribes in modern times as Dayaks such as Bidayuh, Kenyah, Kayan and others. The human movement on the island of Borneo was originally not from the interior to the beach but behind it and hence the opinion that the inland people are longer than the coastal community is incorrect.

Scriptorium Civilization

Malays in Borneo have characteristics of Malay civilization like the rest of the Malays in hundreds of islands and capitals in Malay Archipelago. Among the features of the civilization is the scriptorium, the writing and publication system in Malay by using various modified writing systems from Sanskrit, Pallava and Arabic characters. So there are essays on laws, literature in various genres in Sanskrit-Malay, Pallava-Malay and in the end Jawi-Malay. Although the center of the Malay civilization was found to have moved in accordance with the supremacy and influence, whether the kingdom or the Malay empire from time to time such as the Srivijaya Empire, the Majapahit Empire, the Barunai Empire, the Melaka Empire, the Acheh Empire, the Johor-Riau Empire and the Patani Empire. Yet the axis of the Malay civilization remains one and the same and is adhered to by hundreds of small Malay states scattered in the Malay Archipelago. A book used by the Malay rulers of Sarawak is the Tajus as-Salatin to be a guide to govern the state fairly. Examples of scriptural civilizations are as follows:

  • Hikayat Datuk Merpati
  • Syair Tarsilah Cetera Datu Abang Gudam Dengan Temenggon Kadir Negeri Saribas
  • Sejarah Negeri Banting
  • Hikayat Negeri Sarawak
  • Silsilah Raja-Raja Barunai
  • Manuskrip Limbang

Early Malay States

The Malays around the island of Borneo are no exception from being exposed to various changes from time to time. They also propelled their civilization by establishing a state. Even the first Malay state was Kutai, located east of Borneo at 400ES. Among the early Malay states were the Barunai States (860ES), Banjarmasin, Sukadana, Sampit, Bolongan, Pasir, Matan, Sambas, Pontianak, Sanggau, Landak, Sintang, Putusibau which are now in the Republic of Indonesia.

In Sarawak today, the Malays have also established a Malay state. Historical research based on Jawi-Malay manuscripts, sources from around the Malay Archipelago, the results of archeological studies and western works prove the earliest Malay states as follows:

  • Santubong (c.600ES)
  • Samarahan (c.1200ES)
  • Sawaku-Sarawak (c.1365ES)
  • Kalaka (c.1365ES)
  • Malanau (1365)
  • Saribas (c.1450ES)
  • Banting (c.1550ES)

In 1609 these Malay states had separated themselves from the Brunei Empire and joined the Johor-Riau Empire.

Local Structure & System

In areas once ruled by the Malay rulers seem to continue to maintain the existing community structure under the authority of the Sultanate of Brunei until the late 19th century. A characteristic of high civilization is in the form of an administrative-administration system, namely:

  • Datu Patinggi
  • Datu Temenggong
  • Datu Syahbandar
  • Datu Bandar
  • Datu Hakim
  • Datu Imam

Obviously, the Sultanate of Brunei does not attempt to impose their system with the use of Pekeliling posts. The structure of the Sarawak Malay traditional society has been preserved and what if the colonial invaders came, they continued to respect the existing system.

Malay in Borneo

Although the Sarawak Malays now exist in coastal areas and in the middle of the river, in the early days of the Malay states there were also Malay settlements in the interior. With these early Malay states, the Malays had traded with the Malays-Dayaks in the interior. Among them are Marudi in Baram, Belaga in Rejang, Ulu Skrang in Batang Lupar, Putusibau, Sintang, Sanggau and Landak in Batang Kapuas. Hence it is not appropriate to say the Malays are only in the coastal area. Since then, Malays have been scattered throughout Borneo Island and are not concentrated in an area alone. The total population of Borneo Island is 19.8 million people (2010) is comprised of 70% Malay-Islamic, 20% Malay-Dayak and 10% Chinese. The breakdown of Borneo Island residents is as follows:

  • Sarawak, Malaysia: 2,420,009
  • Sabah, Malaysia: 3,120,040
  • Kalimantan Barat: 4,393,239
  • Kalimantan Tengah: 2,202,599
  • Kalimantan Selatan: 3,626,119
  • Kalimantan Timur: 3,550,586
  • Kalimantan Utara: 2,265,937
  • Brunei Darussalam: 406,200

Culture & Lifestyle

In contrast to other indigenous tribes, Sarawak Malays have a live culture rather than material culture. Malay Sarawak inherited the use of baju kurung for men and women. The men are equipped with cotton or cotton songket Sarawak or Brunei songkok.



1. Amanah Khairat Yayasan Budaya Melayu Sarawak, www.melayusarawak.org.my