How to cook durian flowers ?

Durian flowers,anyone? This is an eye-opening dish for people outside Sarawak.I am not sure whether Sabahan and Brunei people do cook durian flowers as vegetable but for some people, it is a dish probably unheard of.As for the Kalimantan side,I am quite sure they too,enjoy this wonderful flowers as vegetables as we do .In Chinese is Liu lian hua (榴櫣花)。

 

Fresh durian flowers.
Fresh durian flowers.

Some interesting facts about the durian flowers:

The genus Durio has about 30 species of which 19 are native to Borneo ( known to be original centre of diversity),11 to Peninsular Malaya and 7 to Sumatra.The most common durian sold in the markets is the durio zibethinus.

Durian tree blooming flowers
Durian tree in full bloom in my friend’s garden.

The durian tree has straight trunk and horizontal upper branches.Durian flowers are borne along big branches.Durian flowers buds appear in clusters of  2 – 45 flowers  over a period of 3 -4 weeks during dry season.The flowers are mostly greenish white or yellowish in color.Flowers of the wild durian ukak (durio kutejenis) are bright crimson in color.Its fruits are bright orange in color.

 

The floor full of durian flowers
The floor  is fully covered by durian flowers.Notice the mats placed under the tree.

The flowers blossom in the evening and at night, all flower parts fall to the ground except the pistil.We do not pluck the flowers but wait for them to fall on its own.The flowers are pollinated by fruit bats(Eonycteris Spelea).I was asked by my friend to collect flowers in the morning,as early as 6pm,and went back in the afternoon at 5 pm to take pictures with my silly point and shoot.Luckily there were some lower branches with lots of flowers dangling,otherwise I would end up with blur pictures for this post.

Notice the mats placed under the tree in the picture above.They are not for dating.

Just imagine one romantic scenario in a Malaysian movie plot,Namewee’s style i.e., two lovers decide to spend a romantic night underneath a blooming durian tree and wake up in the morning with creamy yellow durian flowers as blankets on their bodies.How romantic! But the reality is ,they will be bitten all over by the ants,mosquitoes and probably snakes !

Usually people in Sarawak collect durian flowers very early in the morning,as early as 5 am because the flowers will turn yellow and appear less fresh under the hot sun.

A cluster of durian flowers dangling from a branch
A cluster of durian flowers dangling from a branch.

 The durian flower buds are enveloped by the pale green ,leaf-like epicalyx which cover all the flower parts before the flowers blossom.When the flowers blossom,the flower parts revealed are the yellowish calyx,the five creamy yellow petals ,five bundles of stamens and a pistil.The calyx are crown-like,having 5 yellowish green sepals fused at their bases.

The edible stamen bundles consists of many fused and branched filaments having numerous anthers.Each filament within bundles is fused at its base.The pistil consists of an orange stigma at the end and an ovary at its base.At night ,all flower parts fall to the ground except the pistil with an orange stigma.

flower
A single durian flower showing the single pistil with orange stigma.

 Harvesting durian flowers is fun but have to be careful with all the insect bites.I had sweet memory of harvesting durian flowers with my late aunt.We stayed overnight in a small tilted hut(3′ X 6′) called langkou in Iban and waited for durian flowers to fall.By the time I woke up,not much left for me.Actually the langkou was meant for durian season but collecting durians was too risky for kids so I was grateful to her for giving me the chance to spend one night under the giant homegrown durian tree.

The crimson coloured flowers of the wild durian
The crimson coloured flowers of the wild durian

Durian flowers season falls on the month of August or September.They appear suddenly in the markets and disappear within one week.For those who seldom go to markets, they might miss the durian flower season and have to wait for the next season to come.They come and go in a hurry and not easy to catch them in time.Three months after the durian flower season will be the durian fruit season.Durian flowers do not taste and smell like durian fruits.They are crunchy with a tinge of fragrance and sweetness.

DURIAN
A heap of durian flowers to be picked carefully.Notice the pale green flower stalks.This may take 1 hour unless you have more hands .

 

Most of the durian trees in Kuching area are homegrown.Collecting durian flowers from big orchards is not a wise move,especially those which are near oil palm plantations,unless they are labeled as organic farms.

Picking durian flowers is a tedious job.A heap of flowers may take hours to finish picking.That is why they are not served in restaurants here in Sarawak.During peak seasons of durian flowers,some fast food cafes,including the vegetarian cafes,do sell durian flowers in curry or sambal belacan.

 

 

flowers
Left-Retain only the petals and the filaments without the anthers.Right – Discard the cup-like calyx,the leaf-like sepals, brown durian flowers and the flower stalks.
Preparing the durian flowers

Durian flowers cannot be cooked right away.There is a tedious process to be done before cleaning the flowers.Do not wash the flowers immediately after collecting from the gardens.First task to complete is to remove the anthers from the stamens.Just wipe off the anthers from the stamens with finger tips.Discard all the flower parts except the stamens and the creamy yellow petals.

Usually we need extra hands to help otherwise we will end up spending at least 1 hour just to pick the flowers.Most people would pick only the stamens and do not bother to pick the tiny,curly petals.Failure to wipe off the anthers completely from the filaments will end up a slimy dish instead of a crunchy one.

Next step is to blanch the durian flowers,then rinse  thoroughly,drain them and keep in the fridge.It can last for about 3-5 days in the fridge.Can we keep it in the freezer ? No, unless you want the flowers to turn rubbery and tasteless.It tastes best on the same day of the harvest.

flower
Durian flowers in sambal belacan

 

Recipe

Durian flowers in sambal balacan

Ingredients
  • 20-30 g vegetarian belacan – made from fermented soya beans (can be replaced by 2-3 tsp of miso)
  • 3 dried chilies – minced(OR 1 tsp of chili powder)
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 3 shallots – sliced(optional for Buddhist and Hari Krishna vegetarians)
  • 3 stalks of lemon grass( serai) – crushed
  • 300 g picked durian flowers – blanched and rinsed under the tap
  • 1/2 tsp mushroom powder
  • 3 tbs of oil(more or less)
Method
  1. Blend the shallots,belacan,chilies and curry powder together.Add water to form a paste.
  2. Fry the belacan paste until fragrant.
  3. Add in the durian flowers and serai.
  4. Stir fry for a while and add some water.
  5. The last step is to add the mushroom powder and salt to taste.

Quick stir-fry this way will ensure you a super dish of crunchy durian flowers.Enjoy its unique texture and exotic flavour.

Durian flowers as vegetable,as exotic as ever !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Telur tebu (Sugar Cane Flower) , the Fijian Asparagus

Telur tebu or tebu telur,the Fijian asparagus a.k.a duruka in the Fiji islands.

It is also known as terubuk in Indonesia ,bunga tebu or tebu kerdil.Its Chinese name is 甘蔗花。

Its scientific name is saccharum edule hasskarl.

 

Telur tebu
Telur tebu

 Telur tebu looks like baby corn and has natural sweetness of sweet corn, even their leaves too look alike.Telur tebu or the vegetable cane is very common in the pacific islands especially on the Fijian Islands.Wild varieties are also found in this area.Telur tebu found in South East Asia are mostly cultivated.

To cook them one have to remove the sheaths and carefully take out the fish egg look-alike, crumbly flowers inside.The unopened flower heads called telur tebu can be eaten raw with tomato sauce or cook in soup.

Mature telur tebu
Mature telur tebu

The picture below shows telur tebu plants along the roadside in my neighborhood.Notice the thin stems of this variety of sugar cane and this differentiate it from the medicinal plant ‘Ma Cao’.Besides the thin stems,telur tebu and ‘ma cao’ do look very much alike.The difference lies in their stems.Ma cao stem is like bamboo whereas telur tebu stem is sugar cane stem.Their flowers are also different.The dwarf,edible Ma cao is Pennisetum purpureum cv.Mott.


Telur tebu plants in my neighbour's garden
Left-Telur tebu plants in my neighbour’s garden.       Right-Telur tebu ready for harvesting in my garden

The best way to cook it is to cook it in thick soup with pumpkin or tomatoes.The creamy soup of pumpkin blends very well with the soft yet dry telur tebu.

It tastes best in simple dish.Spicy ingredients would cover its natural sweetness.It goes well with sweet corn and cucumber shoots too.

telur
Telur tebu in creamy soup of pumpkin.


Recipe
 Ingredients
  • 250 g pumpkin – cut into bite size
  • 3 stalks of  crushed serai (lemon grass)
  • 3 red chili padi
  • 2 tbs corn oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk

 

Method
  1. Fry pumpkin till slightly brown.
  2. Simmer with 1 cup of water till pumpkin turns soft.
  3. Add 1 cup of milk with telur tebu,serai and chilies as well.
  4. The dish is ready once the milk starts boiling.
  5. Season with light soya source.

Enjoy the dish without rice.

Another option is to cook telur tebu in soup with cangkuk manis. The sweet and tasty cangkuk manis soup adds juice to the soft and tender texture of the telur tebu,thus enhances its flavour to a new level.

tebu
Telur tebu in cangkuk manis soup.

 

Recipe
Ingredients

  •  5 stalks of telur tebu
  • 150 g  cangkok manis leaves – crush the leaves using both hands and then chop finely.
  • 2 tsp light soya source
  • 3 dry chilies
  • 1 cup of water

 

Method
  1. Just fry chilli and add the cangkuk manis.Cangkuk manis should be shredded finely.
  2. Add 1 cup of water and let the soup boil for a few minutes.
  3. Add in the telur tebu which get cooked very fast.
  4. Season with light soya source.

Enjoy the soup with or without rice.

 Click here to find out more about ‘cangkuk manis’.Scroll down that page to view the photo.

Another simple and yet delicious way of cooking telur tebu is by boiling the flowers in milk or coconut milk for a few minutes and then pan-fry or grill them till slightly brown.

Pan-fried telur tebu
Pan-fried telur tebu

Indonesians and local malays deep-fry or cook telur tebu in masak lemak.Telur tebu can be one of the ingredients for our vegetarian curry together with coconut shoots.

Enjoy cooking this sugar cane flower and don’t forget to share with us your photos of great dish with telur tebu together with your comments.


   Yeah,lets cook telur tebu.

 Monkeys love them too,so do us!