Kelabit Foods


The Kelabit always have a supply of fresh meat and vegetable from the jungle or garden.. They collect wild vegetables from the jungle and hunt or fish for their protein. Besides that, each family has farms for growing their own rice, not only for domestic consumption, but also for sale. Poultry like chicken and ducks are reared for domestic consumption.

The Kelabit also produced their own salt called the Kelabit or Bario salt. This salt is obtained by evaporating salty water from salt springs, which are found in the highlands. The salty water is boiled until all the water is evaporated, leaving the salt at the bottom of the “kawang” (big cooking utensil). The remaining water is completely dripped from the salt before it was put in bamboo pipes to be burnt in the fire. This is to harden the salt, which is later wrapped in big leaves to be kept in dry and safe places. The salt is used in cooking and also to preserve meat.

Traditionally the Kelabit used clay pots, made locally by women, to cook or to prepare their food. However, today most of their kitchen utensils are obtained from urban areas, for instance spoons, forks, plates, and metal cooking pots.

Labo Belatuh (Smoked Meat) is a traditional Kelabit food. Meat, particularly wild boar and venison, is salted and smoked over an open fire. The meat will later be boiled and pounded into small strips, and eaten with rice.