Pekan Lachau is a blip along Sarawak’s only highway, but it happens to be perfectly situated just far enough from everything that most travelers will need to pull over for a pee.
It’s a great business opportunity that the local Iban tribespeople have taken advantage of, not only by charging for access to their mostly-clean toilets (0.50 entrance fee), but also by selling durians, jungle fruits, and other wild products that might tantalize an adventure-ready and hungry durian traveler.
About Lachau Town
It’s hard to call Pekan Lachau a town. I’m not sure who actually lives there.
Maybe there are some apartments above the strip of storefronts lining the AH150 Highway connecting Kuching to all towns north like Saratok or Sibu. The local Iban ladies selling the bright gold Iban eggplants and funky smelling mangos told us they lived in kampungs, or small villages, along the backroads behind the town.
The town is more of a trading post. There are convenience stores, small Chinese-style coffee shops, a large public toilet, and a handphone shop where I topped up my credit and bought a cradle to stick the phone to dashboard (which I miraculously still have as of the end of 2018).
Oh, and a playground.
They’ve really got all the important things covered.
Because on top of all these basic needs, the ladies also provide a grabngo durian snacking opportunity for any durian lover who really can’t make it the extra 1.5 hours to the Serian Market.
The market is small, but fairly well stocked with jungle produce that we found some interesting things.
Lachau Jungle Fruit Every Day Tamu
It was a bit late in the season when we hit Lachau, but still we found a good assortment of fruits and veg you don’t find anywhere in Peninsular Malaysia or most places in Southeast Asia.
There were bulbous orange Iban eggplants, plenty of gingers and turmerics, green ferns and mangos everywhere, spread along every flat surface of the overhanging walkway.
Asam Bacang (Mangifera foetida jack)
I thought this was a really bad kuini when I first tasted it. I love kuinis, Mangifera odorata, for their sweet pungent rum-punch and floral flavor.
This mango is sour. Really sour. That’s why it’s got asam in the local name, which means sour. When it’s ripe, it has the same pungent strong smell as a kuini, which gets you all excited, but when you might into it it’s like stringy, burning acid. It would probably be good as a lemonade, with a ton of sugar.
The locals use them as a souring agent in salads, soups and I’m honestly not sure what else. Please leave a comment below if you have any good recipes for these!
Next to the disappointing not-kuinis, I was delighted to find one my favorite mangos. This giant can weigh up to 2kg per mango, with a skin so tough it can be 1/4 inch thick.
The skin has a latex in it that I’m apparently allergic to, so I always burn my face during the season. I can’t help it — it’s so good greedy little me tries to scrape the strangely sweet and savory flesh off the skin, resulting in scabs near the corners of my mouth, my nose, my cheek, or wherever I accidentally root my face into the peel.
In other parts of Sarawak, this big old mango is known as Bambangan or Panjang, but the Ibans call it Buah Mawang. Some versions of it can be intensely sour and fibrous, but the good versions are fleshy, meaty, sweet, and have a strange basil or pepper flavor reminiscent of sweet pizza sauce.
Sounds bizarre, and it is. Definitely good eater-tainment for the long journey from Kuching north.
Lachau Durian Pit Stop
But of course, the most exciting thing to eat in Lachau was durian. It was getting late in the afternoon, and we needed a little pick-me-up to make it to our next destination, plus the durian smelled epic.
It was obviously really fresh. I’m not sure when it dropped, but someone had picked it up from the jungle floor and brought it to the market that afternoon. The stem was still green and sticky with sap and the smell was off-gassing a sparkling, spicy, grassy smell that cried to be eaten.
We only found one in the pile that we deemed worthy of eating, the others seemed a bit older and had a smell that was flat and sulfurous.
All the durians were obviously kampung, or from seedling trees, and in my experience these don’t have a shelf-life of more than a few hours before the flesh starts to ferment, they go bubbly and oniony and loose that special sticky sparkle that I love in really fresh durian.
The ladies cleared a little space for us among the mangos and cempedaks and we shared our little durian snack, which gave us enough of an energy boost to drive on to bigger markets and bigger durian hunts in the next town.
- A Guide to 8 Kuching Markets and Fruit
- Sibu Market — Malaysia’s Biggest Fruit and Vegetable Market
- Serian Market Epic Fruit Haul
Getting to Lachau
You need to keep an eye out for Lachau, or you’ll speed right past it.
Lachau is located about 1.5 hours north of Serian, and 50 minutes south of Sri Aman, along the AH150 Highway. It’s the only north-south highway in Sarawak, so you can’t miss it.
Just keep in mind that everything shuts down in Lachau between 4 and 5 pm, so if you’re returning late you’ll find an eerie, abandoned ghost town.
Use the map below to find Pekan Lachau, or navigate to other durian hunting points of interest. Click each red pin to find a link to the corresponding blog post.