Fri, 29 Sep 2023


Talak-making still in demand
Published on: Sunday, May 28, 2023
By: Lorena Binisol
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Alis preparing `a large pot to make the Talak.
IN anticipation of the Harvest Festival, many households in Penampang are busy making traditional drinks such as Montoku, Tapai, Talak, Lihing and the likes. 

These are homemade alcoholic beverages with main ingredients of rice (and glutinous rice) and yeast – it had been the practice for most locals for many generations.

It is a must-have drink when it comes to celebrations like Kaamatan.

The demand from the local community is still high, especially during festive seasons or special occasions like weddings. Hence, the producers are ready to meet the demand of consumers.

Alis Boijol, 74, from Kg Hungab, said she does it as a pastime as that was the only thing she knew how to make while growing up by watching her mother doing so.  

First thing she did was to cook 12 cups of rice. Once cold, scoop it out into a clean mat and sprinkle with a starter (homemade yeast). Mix well.

Keep it in a jar, close the lid properly and let it ferment for 10 days, Alis said during her Talak-making “tutorial”.

Rice mixed with yeast and fermented for 10 days.

Scooping out the fermented ingredients.

One of the steps in making Talak.

“After 10 days, cook the fermented ingredient in a big pot by adding more water into it. Once cooked, immediately set the device for the process of distilling. You will soon see drips of water coming out during this process.

“The transparent liquid is the final product which we harvest and bottle later,” she said.

The whole process takes about two to three hours plus the 10 days of fermentation period.

She recalled how in her childhood seeing her mother laying the rice on a mat (tikar) and the crunchy leftover (at the bottom of the pot) was eaten by the children like rice crackers.

“It was the hard part like the crust of the rice which you cannot include in the making of the drink. So, we ate it as our dessert. We call it ‘kogut’, crunchy and yummy,” she laughed.

She said ‘Kogut’ was the result of rice being cooked in firewood. Unlike today, rice is cooked using electricity, hence, there is no element of ‘Kogut’ in rice-cooking.

She had been thinking of retiring from making the drink many years ago, but the local community, especially her regular customers, kept her going. Some insisted her to just continue as they find her product tasty, she said.

Talak: The final product.

“If I had the opportunity to attend school and learned some skills, I would have done something else today and not this (making Talak).

“But our family was too poor to send everyone to school. The younger siblings were lucky enough to have their chance to study.

“I stayed home and observed what my mother did with the Talak. So the skill was handed down to me without me realising it.

“I am glad I know certain skills and it is helpful for our survival,” she said.

She is also a fond collector of baskets made from natural raw material such as rattan and jungle leaves, among others.

“No one is interested in these (baskets) like the Tadang (huge back baskets) and Sinaging (mini carry-bag), but I keep them anyway.  Hopefully, someone out there will ask for them and keep them in their museum.”

Alis showing off one of her basket collections. . 

She recalled a group of university students who came by to ask her about fermentation and the process of producing the drinks.

“I have forgotten how they came to know about me but it was a good experience having been ‘interviewed’ by them. I guess my experience and skills charm these young people,” she laughed.

She was asked whether she was willing demonstrate the making of Tapai to a group of people, in the hope that the tradition would be carried on by the next generation.

“No! I am not that ambitious. I am too shy,” was her reply.

On how far she would promote her product, Alis had no intention to do so as she treated it as a pastime.

“I am catering to the people around me, and that is enough to make myself busy. I do not need to promote it elsewhere (social media),” she said firmly.

“I am used to ‘working’ since young, I feel uneasy if I just sit and do nothing. So I make Lihing and Talak and happy to know that there are people still looking for these,” she said.

“I don’t think the younger generation would want to take over this laborious task.

“So, once I am gone, everything is gone with me – the skills, technique and probably the recipes, too, if no one is interested to take over,” she said.


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