PETALING JAYA: Priscilla Joslee and her friend Tika gather rice, salt, and raw fish to prepare “bosou”, but they are missing a key ingredient that’s hard to find in South Korea.
Getting a fresh supply of “panggi” – commonly known as buah keluak or kepayang fruit – nearly 4,000km away from Sabah is nearly impossible, so the 24-year-olds make do with the three simple ingredients on hand.
“Even though the taste is not the same, we learn to enjoy it because it reminds us of home,” Priscilla, a factory worker, told FMT recently.
Indeed, this traditional Kadazan dish holds great cultural significance to them and others who celebrate the Sabahan harvest festival of Kaamatan.
Usually observed at the end of May, the festivities actually last for weeks, with observers bonding over rice wine, karaoke, and traditional favourites such as bosou.
This time of year is especially tough for Priscilla, who has not returned to her hometown in Sabah in four years since she began working in Seoul.
And since she and Tika have to miss out on the big celebrations back home, they have decided to gather with other Sabahans for their own “small” commemoration of Kaamatan.
“On the weekends, we come together to share stories about our work, and our interactions with locals and workers from other countries,” Priscilla said.
On these occasions, cries of “aramaiti!” – a Kadazan term which loosely means “to enjoy” – and popular Kadazan songs can be heard from their apartment.
Tika, who works on an estate, said she was glad to have fellow Sabahans around, even though the festivities simply weren’t the same.
She misses the laughter of her siblings as they reminisce about their childhood, visiting her neighbours, and enjoying the delicious food back home.
“When we celebrate Kaamatan in Sabah, it is a chance for our family to spend time together,” Tika added. “The situation isn’t the same here.”
Still, this doesn’t deter her from making the most of it. “No matter where we are, we will always remember our culture and the Kaamatan spirit buried deep in us.”