After a morning hike through the primary rainforest of Taman Negara in Pahang, a sumptuous, hot meal is most welcome.
Even better if it is a buffet, served along the jungle river, on a boat.
This is the epiphany that licensed eco-tourist guide Abdullah Chik, 51, came up with. He has been guiding in Taman Negara since 1991.
“I was not happy just providing hikers with packed meals or even simple dry rations.
“After the morning hike through a hill and under the jungle canopy, people get hungry.
“If they only eat basic rations, I saw that they were not satisfied and the next item on the itinerary, which is a visit to an orang asli village, might not be so enjoyable.
“So some time ago, I formed the idea of serving them a buffet during lunch break,” said Abdullah.
It was a matter of sending the boatman back to base to bring the food cooked by kampung folk in insulated containers.
As lunch hour draws near, the boatman moors his boat on a sandy bank, wraps a plank on the boat with green cloth to improve aesthetics and pours the dishes into buffet chafing pots.
The kampung folk prepare a saucy chicken dish locally called ayam masak merah, omelettes fried with plenty of greens, cut fruits for dessert and a Malay-style salad of raw vegetables served with savoury hot sambal belacan.
But there will always be a dish that deserves special mention: patin curry.
Patin, in English, is called shark catfish. There are many species and it is listed as the sixth most commonly eaten fish in the United States although the average American is ignorant of the fact because the patin they eat is filleted and skinned and marketed using the name “dory”.
Abdullah asserted that anyone visiting Pahang must try the local patin.
“They are farmed today. Truly wild patin is really expensive.
“In Pahang, patin is farmed in cages on our rivers, so they won’t have a ‘pond smell’.
“Since they are always swimming in the current, the breeding condition ensures that their meat is wonderfully smooth yet fatty.
“You must try patin when you come to Pahang,” said Abdullah, who lives in Jerantut.
To enjoy this jungle riverside patin buffet, a minimum of eight hikers pay RM170 each for a day trip.
But with the current monsoonal rains, Abdullah advised adventurers to plan their trips during the dry phase of the northeast monsoon which will be in February and March.
“In the dry season, our rivers will be gentle and the waters clear,” he said.
To plan your adventures into Taman Negara, contact Abdullah at 017-957 7914.