Today I would like to write about one of the best place to be visited at Miri town, which is the legendary smoke house.
Although it is called smoke house, by definition it is a collection of few stalls or establishment selling smoked or roasted foods, in a manner of open house restaurant. It gets the name of “smoke house” because it is always surrounded by smoke emitted by the continuous roasting activities to cater the ever-growing customers, be it local people or visitors. Sometimes this smoke acts like an indicator, whether they are in business on that day ornot, which can be seen by the passerby. No smoke, no business, so move on to the next locations.
Another evening at smoke house
As far as we know, smoke house started as a humble stall back in early 1990s, owned by the local peoples (I heard it started by an Iban husband and wife) selling roasted porks, fried chicken wings, its intestines, liver, fried catfish other sort of the local delicacies prepared using charcoal and fire. It is very appealing to the locals, especially for someone who just want to satisfy their craving for fried foods and don’t want to be bothered by the difficulties in preparing it. The first location is at the Pujut Bus Station, although the current location is situated not far from the very first establishment of smoke house.
From there, it gains popularity as many peoples, near and far, comes visiting. Taking advantage from this popularity, the second location of smoke house took place at E-Mart Tudan. This is the easiest to access as it is situated near Miri-Brunei road. Those en route to either place can grab a meal here prior continuing their journey. Aside from the smoke house, there are few other establishments around the area, which includes E-Mart Tudan, which is like a all-in-one store. Mirians view E-Mart like how Americans view their Wal-Mart. Not sure where the “E” came from, probably it came from the owner of the Mart.
From here, few other locations are notable, including Anacamp Smoke house (not far from airport, near the cross-road traffic light), MJ BBQ at Morsjaya, modern smoke house at E-Mart Miri Airport road. These are the locations that I came to know so far, so if there is other locations that I have missed, do comment below. In case you are lost or not sure where it is, do ask the passerby at Miri. Generally they are very helpful, and in terms of language, English can be used, although most of the people are able to converse very well in Malay language, Malaysian lingua franca. Or, if you can speak Iban language, that would be better. The locals will happily entertain you.
Some helpful quotes on finding smoke house includes the usage of Google map. Just type “smokehouse Miri”, and the result would be shown on the screen. For your convenience, you may use this URL: https://goo.gl/maps/E4cz93Kmca12
Location search nowadays are very convenient. You may refer to the snapshot below taken from Google Maps. Thanks Google!
Smoke House / Rumah Asap (Courtesy of Google Map)Typing “smokehouse Miri” by default will bring you to the smokehouse at E-Mart Tudan. For other locations, you can just type the location of the smokehouse and its location.
Smokehouse Style and What to Expect
When we are talking about smokehouse, the very first thing that came to mind of most people is the abundance of its food, particularly roasted chicken and its organs (intestines, liver, heart and butt), pork & fish. Food served at smoke house is not halal, but it is a well-known fact, and people going there know very well that they are not looking for halal food, but to taste the best of the locals of the Miri. I am not exaggerating if I say, the best food in town can be found at smoke house.
In my opinion, these food are prepared with love. Why I said so is because the preparation of the same food is no different from the way these wonderful peoples prepare food for their children. They are preparing it to the best of their abilities. There is nothing more satisfying to see a customer eats the food happily. Getting a thanks from that happy customer, in return will make them happy and motivated to much better in the future. A returning customer is always good for the business.
In accompaniment of the food here, “sambal” (shrimp paste mixed with chili pepper, garlic, some onions and other stuff, depending on the hawker) will be served along with lime. These are the most common accompaniments there, as a way to open up your appetite. For me, the best way to eat roasted pork is to eat it with sambal mixed with lime, as it really awakens your taste buds, and makes you wonder also why you are not eating there earlier. However, I don’t recommend you to eat there everyday as too much fatty acid is not good for you. But I must admit, if it is free of charge, I would eat there daily. For each kilogram of pork, depending on the hawker, you can get around RM18-RM25. They have their own weighting scale calibrated to give you a reasonable price, although negotiation skills come into play. Good luck!
For visitors from the outside, these way of dish preparation is rather unique. But do keep in mind that everytime you are eating at smokehouse, you are looking into a tradition that is so synonymous to Miri and nothing much has changes in the past 30 years – a Miri way of life. Also, have I mentioned to you that these place also served all kinds of drinks and most importantly, beer? For the local indigenous peoples, nothing can beat the combination of pork and beer. The ability to prepare a good roasted pork is good way to win the heart of a local man and woman, because by preparing a good food, you will be able to win the heart of the family as well. No parents would want to see their chidren starved by women or men who cannot cook. Well, that is just some Relationship 101 for you. Don’t take it too seriously, but if you never try, you will never know.
How To Start Your Ordering?
Upon arrival, you go to one stall to one another. As an act of courtesy, do greet the stall owners. They are always ready to answer your queries, if there is any. You may converse in Malay, English or Iban. Some can speak in Kayan or Kenyah as well.
Once you have decided on your food, you let the hawkers know your intention. In case you want to know how to pick the best pork, find the one that has a good ratio of meat to fatty layer. As a pork-lover, I prefer to take a bigger portion of meat, as it will be the best part. However, if you love to eat the fat laters, you are most welcomed to pick the one with the most fat.Difficult decisions to be made can be seen below, choosing the right piece of meat.
Let them know where you seat after you make your order. At least if you cannot decide, let them know which area you are going to sit. Normally the customer will sit in front of the hawkers stall, easier for both parties. In terms of food, if you wish to order some local vegetables like “midin”, you will have to pick from the end stalls, at the new-ish establishment of smokehouse of Tudan. If you are in doubt, you can ask the kind hawkers where you first bought your food. Don’t worry, they are very kind to tell you and to show you where it is.
Usually the food will be send to you within 5 mins time, which is relatively quick. Enjoy the food!
Dos & Don’ts At Smoke House:
Please bear in mind that when you are smoke house, you are entering a public space, which means you must respect other peoples. I list it down below what to do and what not to do when you are there:
- Don’t make excessive noise when you are there. Conversational noise is acceptable and occasional burst of laughter is perfectly acceptable since everyone can accept the fact that peoples going there is of good-will and just want to have some fun. But if you are making a constant high noise and even shouting, there are likelihood you will offend others and the last thing you want to know is you are asked to leave from the premise. The whole ruckus also might be recorded and uploaded at Miri Community Facebook page. Trust me, that is the last thing you want to end up if you are Mirians. With 166, 343 members (as of 11 Jun 2017), which is almost every Mirians with Facebook, you are surely in good trouble, and people will mark your face. To be famous for the wrong reason is not a good thing, especially in a close-knit community like in Miri. However, thank goodness, so far there is no such case.
- Don’t sit on a hawker’s place when you are not ordering from their place, unless you are permitted and there is genuinely no other seat from where you buy the food. This is for obvious reason, if you are not their customer, then you are not supposed to sit there because it is reserved for their potential customers. However, this is no big issue and solution can come quick, which is to move to other place.
- Don’t cancel food ordering last minutely. Smokehouse have an unspoken rules, which is the moment you order food from them, you are expected to pay. I am talking from a business perspective. If you are my customer, and suddenly half-way of preparation of the food, where I sliced your meat already and put it on a polystyrene plate, I would expect you to pay. Even if you are not eating it there, at least you can “tapau” (local term for take away, taken from Cantonese Chinese word “da bao” “打包”). Also, speaking from humanity point of view, each food took some effort to prepare. Please bear in mind that the food prepared here are not your regular 2-minutes noddle. They work from morning to marinate it, roast it in the afternoon and serve it until evening, and normally it doesn’t last until 9pm if there is a lot of customers.
- Don’t waste your food. This is also an unspoken rule at smokehouse. A customer who perfectly appreciates the food will finish it. If you are not that hungry, don’t order too much food, and instead, order food moderately. Like Malay proverb say, ukur baju di badan sendiri (measure your own cloth at your body), know your limit and don’t go overboard just because you can afford the food. That food that you waste is a luxury to some people.
- Don’t leave without paying. Although some hawkers leave their food with you for a while, that means they trust you to pay it later. Miri community have this common trust, that the customer will pay it eventually. We truly appreciate this trust, and we love to keep it that way. It makes our life easier. Whoever is caught will be made famous at Miri Community first before that person is brought to police.
As for the do’s, it is very straight forward.
- Do enjoy your food. Foods here are affordably delicious like no other.
- Do bring your friends and family here, as this is a good place to bond with family. Generally, the older men love to eat here as they can enjoy pork and beer without having the hassle to prepare it and to do the housekeeping later. Might as well pay and leave it to the hawkers.
- Do compliments the hawker if they are doing an excellent servie. This keeps the feel-good vibe and make your next visit are most welcomed.
- Last but not least, do enjoy the warm environment of smoke house, one of the symbol of unity that Sarawakians are truly proud of.
Smoke House Street-Photography Tips:
If you are like me, I am truly delighted to see that there is a lot of peoples at smokehouse. I love to see the emotions of the peoples at smokehouse, which is truly humbling and makes me miss my family back home at Serian. So these are some of the photography tips for you, to whoever wishes to create some photo at smokehouse, of peoples other than your friends and acquaintance.
- Permission – No matter what you read at the internet, do ask for permission everytime you want to create a photography, capturing the moment seen nowhere else. Reason why I ask so is because here in Miri, we believe in courtesy. Taking a photo of someone without their permission is a big NO, as you don’t want to offend other peoples. We do not like to offend other peoples, and we also expect the same from others, especially this random young photographer who came out of nowhere and want to create a photograph using his camera with God-knows-whatever reason (yes, I am referring to myself here). Probably some might say I am creating an excuse here, but without this, I can be charged for interrupting a people doing a business. Besides, smokehouse is a business premise, not a public places. Public places is a different story altogether.
- Once you get the green light, try to anticipate the best moments, or in street photographer word – the decisive moments, a fleeting moment in this infinite timeline, a moment that cannot be duplicated in other points in this time line. Example of the decisive moment includes the moments when someone cracked a joke, and everyone else started laughing. That, my friends, is a decisive moment. Capturing emotion and immortalise it in pixels is my passion, my main goal whenever I take up my trusty “Monochrom” camera.
- Again, as an act of courtesy from one person to another, whenever you finish your photography with one person to another, always end it with a thank you, or “terima kasih” in Malay. In Iban, you just need to emphasis the “i”, give it a slight intonation like the locals. In that way, people will not consider you as a rude person. Yes, it is rude if you don’t thank you someone else.
State your intention if needed to. No one knows who on Earth you are, unless you are a celebrity. I am not known at Miri, so I started off by introducing myself and let the peoples there know who I am, my profession and let them see my Facebook page to ensure legitimacy. You can search for my Facebook page, Claudius Weson Photography https://www.facebook.com/claudiuswesonphotography/). I do take wedding, event and modelling photography in monochrome, to honour the past street photographers. “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!” – a quote by Ted Grant, father of Canada photojournalism.
- Don’t overthink, just react to the surroundings. The moment you are thinking, is my setting correct? Right focal length, ISO, aparture etc. By the time you finish thinking, it is over (this word is inspired by Ted Grant).
- In terms of gear, any gear will do, but I prefer to use 35mm focal length lens as I want to have the best of portrait and landscape photography.
I hope all these tips will help you with your search for smokehouse as well as the smoke house street-photography. Have a great day ahead!