Wild olives from our rainforest?

Wild olives from Sarawak ? Do you know that we actually have wild olives known as ‘Dabai’ in Iban from our rainforest in Malaysia ? Not only dabai,we have its look-alike,kembayau with an entirely different taste and texture.(野生橄榄)


Cooked dabai
Cooked dabai


  Unlike the olives in Italy and Greece which grow on short and bushy trees,our olives grow on tall trees,as tall as 30-60m.The price is RM18-30 per kg.This year we have a lot of wild fruits in the markets so price goes down a bit.How does it taste? Well,the texture is like firm avocado flesh but more creamy,more fragrant and once in the mouth,an experience of unforgetable rich flavour,distinctively that of the dabai will haunt you forever.

Fresh dabai from the 7th mile market
Fresh dabai from the 7th mile market

Dabai is a GI (geographical indicating)plant of Sarawak and local people have started to plant them in small scales.What we buy from the market is a mix of jungle produce and fruits from small holders.Wild dabai are more expensive,may sell at RM28 per kg in Kuching.Cheaper dabai at RM10-12 per kg are cultivated by the small holders locally.Wild dabai has a stronger flavour due to the maturity of the trees and the natural environment surrounding their fruit trees.

Different ways of preparing the dabai
  1. By steeping the fruits in lukewarm water,just enough to cover them.Leave the pot open and the olives will get cooked after 30 min.
  2. By storing the fresh and cleaned dabai in the freezer.This can last for few months and just thaw the fruits before serving.
  3. By soaking the fruits in thick soya source for a few days.

Eat right away with rice,dipping them in thick soya source or sprinkle with salt.Dabai paste can be made by discarding the seeds and then mix with rock salt.Keep in airtight containers and can last for weeks.Dabai paste are sold in the markets and high-end products like dabai beauty soaps are also available.

Cooked dabai in brine
Cooked dabai in brine

Soak the dabai in brine solution for 3 days or longer and yummy yum yum yum dabai ready for dabai fried rice with chillies and corainder leaves.

Fried rice with dabai
Fried rice with dabai
Fried Rice with Dabai – Recipe
  • 1 cup of cold rice (left over rice kept in the fridge overnight)
  • 5 cooked dabai  (salted or unsalted) – discard the seeds,cut into bite size.
  • 1 chili – chopped
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro or sawtooth coriander leaves
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp light soya source
  1. Heat up 1 tbs of corn oil.
  2. Fry the dabai and chili together till it becomes fragrant.
  3. Add in the cold rice and keep on stir-frying.
  4. Finally add in the cilantro.

Just try your hands on this simple recipe and post your picture to share with us.Yeah,lets go cooking!
But before cooking dabai,make sure you learn something about its look-alike,kembayau as shown in the picture below.



Dabai and kembayau are two different jungle produce of Sarawak rainforest.Kembayau,lacking popularity,is still very much kept as a wild and edible fruit of Sarawak rainforest.

Dabai is canarium odontophyllum while kembayau is dacryodes rostrata forma cuspidata in latin.
  1. Kembayau is darker,almost black in color while dabai is purplish in color.
  2. Kembayau is oblong in shape while dabai is round and short.
  3. Kembayau seeds are soft and slimy while dabai seeds are hard.
  4. Kembayau has dry,thick and dull skin whereas dabai has smooth and shiny skin.
  5. Kembayau has seeds that are soft and slimy whereas dabai has seeds with hard shells.
  6. Kembayau has seeds that are round in cross-section whereas dabai has seeds that are triangular in cross-section.
  7. Kembayau seeds are not edible whereas dabai seeds contain kernels that are clunchy and nutty as almond seeds.Chop or hammer the seeds and eat the kernels inside,though troublesome but worth the efforts once you have an unforgettable taste of the nuts inside.


Dabai seeds with edible kernels inside
Dabai seeds with edible kernels inside
The main difference is in the taste and texture.

Kembayau flesh is thin and slightly sour whereas dabai flesh is  thicker,more fragrant,creamy and richer in flavour.

Dabai is just so unique,in every sense and every aspect.It is one of the gems from the vast rainforest of Sarawak.

For the nutritional value of dabai,please click table 1. 

Notice its remarkable high potassium content.

Getting ready for the next dabai season? Well,from November to January is the fruit season in the land of Borneo.All the edible wild fruits and nuts will be there in the markets awaiting your patronage.






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Bunga Kantan,the edible wild flower

Bunga Kantan aka torch ginger flower or torch lily is the most beautiful, wild and edible flower in the rainforest of Malaysia.The scientific name is Etlingera Elatior.

Bunga Kantan in full bloom
Bunga Kantan in full bloom


Well,according to wikipedia,its leaves have higher AOP than its flowers and roots.Hmmm…..,may be we should start munching the leaves.
‘Antioxidant properties(AOP) of its leaves are significantly stronger than flowers and rhizomes’ – wikipedia

Despite of the statement above,the flower of E.elatior,i.e. bunga kantan will continue enjoy its popularity as the most beautiful,edible flower by the Malaysian and Indonesian.Local dishes like assam laksa  and nasi kerabu will be incomplete without bunga kantan.

Bunches of Bunga kantan are sold in the market as wild flowers by our natives here in Sarawak.Though as wild as it can be,it can be easily grown in the garden.Some of us in the urban area grow this plant at the backyard of the house.


Left-Bunga kantan plants growing in my old neighbour's garden Right - Pink bunga kantan for sale at the market
Left-Bunga kantan plants growing in my old neighbour’s garden
Right – Pink bunga kantan for sale at the market

Most of the pictures are taken from my good neighbour Mung Ping’s garden.The flowers exhibit basically red colour of three shades,namely the pink,the red and the dark red variety.There is also a white variety of bunga kantan.


Red bunga kantan and dark red bunga kantan
Bunga kantan in different shades of red

 Bunga Kantan is widely used in cooking laksa and seafood dishes.Outer harder petals are discarded and only the reddish buds and the tender petals are used for cooking.

Left - picture showing younger buds inside the torch ginger flower Right - Cross secting cutting along the stem of the torch ginger flower
Left – picture showing younger buds inside the torch ginger flower
Right – Cross section cutting along the stem of the torch ginger flower

 Its slightly pungent but pleasant taste is very unique and there is no equivalent of it in any part of the world.Lemon grass and daun kesum may overshadow its taste and flavor if they are put in a pot together.

Stir-fried tempe with bunga kantan
Stir-fried tempe with bunga kantan

In one of the pictures shown is tempe cubes stir-fried with four-winged beans or any other beans,chilies and bunga kantan.The unique taste of bunga kantan adds extra flavor to this dish full of crunchy beans,and slightly browned nutty tempe cubes.

Tempe fried with bunga kantan – Recipe
  •   130 gm tempe(1 packet) – cut into small cubes.
  •   bunga kantan – one stem,sliced thinly
  •   2 four-winged beans or french beans – thinly sliced
  •     1 lime – cut into halves
  •     1 chili – sliced thinly
  •    seasoning – add light soya source to taste
  1. Stir-fry tempe until slightly brown.
  2. Add in chopped chilly,the sliced beans and  bunga kantan.
  3. Season with light soya source.
  4. Garnish with bunga kantan buds.
  5. Squeeze lime juice on the dish and enjoy!

    Bunga kantan cooked in Terung Dayak soup
    Bunga kantan cooked in Terung Dayak soup
Bunga kantan can be added to terung dayak soup cooked with kelp seaweed and chillies.Add miso and brown sugar to taste.
Terung dayak soup recipe
  • 350 gm of terung dayak (solanum ferox linn-sour eggplant)  – Cut into 6 or 8 equal parts
  • 1000 cc of water
  • 3 dry chilies
  • 1 bunga kantan
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbs light soya source
  • 10 gm of  vegetarian belacan or miso
  • 30 gm of  kelp seaweed  – Steam for 30 min.Then cut into rectangles and soak in water.Rinse thoroughly before cooking.Kelp prepared this way cook faster and becomes tender within minutes.
  1. Boil the terung dayak for 20-30 min or till soft.Discard the skin.
  2. Add in the belacan and dry chilies.
  3. Finally add in the kelp seaweed and bunga kantan.Boil for another 5 min.
  4. Season with light soya source.Can be served as mee hoon soup.

In the Bario highland of Sarawak,the kelabit people cook porridge with bunga kantan and meat.As for vegetarian,mushrooms and bunga kantan can be added to the porridge.Season it with light soya source and mushroom powder.


Durian kueh,the local durian toffee

Not many Malaysians know the state of Sarawak shares something in common with West Kalimantan.Their ethnic groups,for example,are very similar to Sarawak.We both have the Dayak,Iban and Orang ulu in the state.

One of the food we share in common is the ‘lempok’  or ‘lempuk’ in Malay,a local durian toffee.Dodol in West Malaysia is different in that the glutinous rice flour is added to the dodol but for the people in Sarawak and Kalimantan,durian kueh means 100% durian pulp with or without sugar.


Durian kueh with sugar added is very sweet
Durian kueh with sugar added is very sweet

When I was young,my mom used to make durian kueh for us during the durian season.That would be towards the end of the year when she spent a lot of her time in the kitchen,peeling durian pulp from the seeds and cooked durian kueh or tempoyak with it.Those were the days,my friends,we used to have boatloads of durians along the big rivers.Quite often my mom gave brand new sarongs to the Ibans who gave us durians.She told me it was not nice to accept the durians for free.

I was asked to help whenever I walked into the kitchen looking for food.It was time consuming and hard work to keep on stirring durian flesh in the big and hot wok with a long and heavy wooden spoon.Most of the time we took turns to keep on stirring the durian pulp otherwise it would be burnt.Durian kueh cooked this way could take 8-9 hours.They are also very sweet and firm to touch.I remembered once I complained to my late mom why did she cook so much durian kueh.She explained that those durian kueh were Chinese New year goodies for relatives and friends.Nowadays,these durian goodies are sold at steep price and sourcing them becomes more and more difficult.


Durian Kueh  without sugar
Lempok – Durian Kueh without sugar

 The picture above shows durian kueh cooked without sugar.As you can see,the color tone is lighter,almost light green and the texture is softer and more sticky.Durian kueh cooked without sugar can only last for one week in the fridge and that explains why some  people prefer the other durian kueh cooked with sugar.This sugar free durian kueh are mostly not for sale and kept for family consumption only.

Durian kueh recipe
  • 1 kg of durian pulp-  To be mashed and mixed well before cooking.Can prepare early and keep in the freezer.
  • 250 gm of brown sugar (optional)

Cook the mixture over medium low fire.Keep on turning and stirring with a big wooden spoon until the mixture becomes dough-like.For 1 kg of durian pulp,it may take 1 hr to complete the cooking process.Kneading of the toffee should start immediately after it is cooler.

The sugar free durian kueh takes shorter time to cook and in fact tastes better with stronger durian flavour,softer and less sweet.However,durian kueh with sugar added has longer shelf life and is therefore more favored commercially.

Knead the toffee into rolls, cut at equal lengths and wrap with grease paper.Home-cooked goodies are ready,yummy!


Sugarless lempuk wrapped in grease paper
Sugarless lempok wrapped in grease paper

Try your cooking skill on this simple recipe,no fuss at all!


     Durian season is coming.Let’s cook for New Year !







Unripe durian as vegetable?

Unripe durian as vegetable ? That’s right,make no mistake about that.My late mom used to cook this dish for us during our childhood.

She would use lots and lots of durians for making durian kueh,a local durian toffee, the unripe ones for cooking as vegetable and the half-ripen durians to be eaten raw.During peak seasons,we always had durians for free.Those were the days when wild fruits were abundant and boatloads of durians were a common sight along the rivers.Durians piled up on the kitchen floor and unripe durians were easily found and mostly were given free by the natives.
Unripe durian stir-fried with cangkuk manis
Unripe durian stir-fried with cangkuk manis

For decades I have not seen vendors selling unripe durians in local markets but this year 2012 was indeed an unusual year.The year 2012 saw a big harvest of durians together with dabai,the jungle olives everywhere in the land of hornbills,Sarawak.As a result of an excess supply of durians,unripe durians are sold in markets without the shells at Rm10 per kg.

Select big and fleshy unripe durians from the market and the next step is to get rid of the seeds and peel off the bitter skin of the seeds attached to the flesh.

Fleshy unripe durian bought from market
Fleshy unripe durian bought from market


Cut the pulp into bite size and stir-fry with cangkuk manis and the dish is as shown in the last picture below.Be careful not to add too much water at a time otherwise the dish will become soggy.


unripe durian cut into bite size
unripe durian cut into bite size

 Just for the information,this dish is usually not sold in food outlets in Sarawak.This is due to lack of supply of unripe durians.Good quality durians do give a kick to its taste and flavour.The first picture shown in this post is a dish of yellow flesh unripe durians stir-fried with cangkuk manis a.k.a star gooseberry in English.

The picture below shows a picture of cangkuk manis vegetable in my garden.Its scientific name is sauropus andogynus.In India it is called malay cheera.Click here for more information about cangkuk manis.

Cangkuk manis growing at the backyard of my house.It is the thin leaf type.
Cangkuk manis growing at the backyard of my house.It is the thin leaf type.


 The picture below shows another dish of ordinary unripe durians cooked in the same way.

Unripe durian stir-fried with cangkuk manis
Unripe durian stir-fried with cangkuk manis
  • 1 kg of unripe durian – prepare the flesh as instructed earlier and cut into bite size.
  • 150 gm of cangkuk manis – Pick the leaves.Clean and crush the leaves with both hands.Chop finely.
  • 2 chilies – cut into bite size.
  • 1 tsp  light soya source
  • a pitch of salt

 1)Heat up 2 tbs of oil in the wok.

2) Fry the unripe durian till slightly brown.

3) Keep on adding a bit of water at a time to cook the unripe durian till soft.

4) Add cangkuk manis with chilies.

5) Continue adding little bit of water now and then until the leaves are well done.

6)Season with a pinch of salt and 1 tsp of light soya source.

How does it taste ? Well,it tastes like  creamy sweet potatoes with a faint aroma of durian.Some people deep-fry slices of unripe durians instead.I am yet to try.Have to wait for another season of durians.My next post will be on tempoyak and durian kueh or lempok (lempuk).

Enjoy cooking!

Uoo La La! 












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Wild Durians from Sarawak Rainforest

The year of 2012 was a good year for all the wildlife and fruit lovers in Sarawak.Durian,King of the fruits,is the most sought after tropical fruit in Malaysia.


Durian ukak/ Durian pantan/Durian nyekak/buah pakan

Tropical forest fruits found in Sarawak like durians,dabai (jungle olives) and wild mangoes were so abundant that price for durian went down to RM 1 per durian and RM 8 per kg of dabai.There are a lot of information about cultivated durians but little is known about wild durians from the rainforest of Borneo.They are truly food of the nature which grow wild in the tropical forests of Sarawak.

Basically there are 5 varieties of jungle durians in Sarawak,namely durian ukak(durio kutejensis),durian isu(durio oxleyanus),durian isi merah(durio graveolens),durian kura-kura(durio testudinaran) and durian kulit merah(durio dulcis).

The more common ones are durian isu and durian ukak/Buah pakan.The other three are quite rare nowadays.Shown in the picture above is Durian Ukak aka Durian Nyekek aka Buah Pakan.Look at its fruitlet.How vivid is the orange color of the flesh! It is firm like custard,almost free of durian worms all the time.Taste sweet and almost odorless.Durian ukak is said to be less ‘heaty’ than the regular durians which means it won’t cause much congestion of any kind in the body system.Its creamy  and  odorless aril is unique to taste.

 Another type of jungle durian is durian isu aka durian isau .Durian Isu is a tiny and round shape durian,full of long thorns of length up to 2 cm.Look at the picture shown below.

Durian isu
Durian isu with long spikes

What do you see?Most durians have 5 lobes or chambers of a few fruitlet tucked inside while durian isu has only 4 lobes with only one or two fruitlet in each lobe.Durian Isu has orange coloured fruitlet too but the color is a bit dull.Some have yellow flesh. Durian isu has very distinctive odor  with thinner aril ,tastes alcoholic and slightly bitter sweet.Some people like it and some like it not.In other words , it is an acquired taste.There are others who love both of them,i.e,durian ukak and durian isu.

Durian isu

Many people,even the locals,get confused with these two durians.Local Chinese call these two durians ‘san durian’,meaning durians from the jungle.They may look similar but taste very different.The best way to identify durian ukak is by looking for its whiskers.It has whiskers growing at the base of the stalk or peduncle.Interesting , isn’t it? I mean who would expect durians having whiskers growing on their spiky skin?  The picture below may help to show the difference between the two.

Durian Ukak and Durian Isu
Durian Ukak and Durian Isu

There are three more varieties of jungle durians which are very rare,namely durian merah aka red-fleshed durian(durio graveolens),durian kulit merah aka red-skinned durian(durio dulcis) and durian kura-kura(durian testudinarum) .The rarest of these three is the wild burning red skin durian(durio dulcis),most commonly found in Kalimantan.Durian merah looks exactly like durian isu except its fruit has crimson-coloured flesh.The taste is also similar,sweet, alcoholic with provoking smell.Durian kura-kura has fruits growing on its trunk or exposed roots instead of branches,just like some campedak trees .

Meanwhile,details of these rare durians will be kept for another article.As for now,enjoy durian ukak and durian isu,just by looking at the pictures. My next post will be on unripe durian and durian products like tempoyak and durian kueh,a kind of local durian toffee.

For the nutritional values of these wild durians,please click Table 1.


Durian ukak
Durian ukak with whiskers at the base of its peduncle









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Pisang tanduk,the gigantic banana

Pisang tanduk or plantain is the staple food in Africa,Cuba,South  and Central America.Some of their cuisines require cooking it with meat.Over here in Malaysia,plantains are cooked without meat.Most often are deep-fried, made into banana chips or simply steamed and served as light meals for supper or breakfast.

Pisang tanduk
Pisang tanduk, 1 foot long


“An average plantain has about 220 calories and is a good source of potassium and dietary fiber.” – Wikipedia

The Scientific name for Pisang Tanduk is Musa x Paradisia fa. corniculata.It is also known as the cow horn banana in Chinese or cooking banana.Pisang tanduk or the plantain is very well liked by all races of Malaysians  in this country.As you can see from the picture above, it can grow up to 1 foot long or even longer.Its diameter is usually 3-4″.

Smaller type of pisang tanduk measures up to 6-8″ long and diameter is only 2-3″ wide.Most people would deep-fry pisang tanduk like frying pisang goreng.

Pan-fried pisang tanduk.

 Pisang tanduk has a tart taste when it is eaten raw.In reality,there are  people who first encounter pisang tanduk thinking that it is just like ordinary banana with bigger size.Some will just go ahead and peel the skin and try to eat it like eating pisang rastali or pisang keling.It does not taste sweet and its texture is not as soft as other smaller bananas.However,pisang tanduk tastes heavenly sweet and delicious after cooking.One way to enjoy this fruit is by pan-frying it.
Peel the skin and cut slices of the banana.Pan-fry with minimum quantity of oil until both sides of the slices turn brown or caramelized.Kids love bananas cooked this way.We all know that kids like deep-fried food but pan-fried food is a better choice.

Steamed Pisang tanduk.

Another choice of cooking is simply by steaming.Steamed plantain is very sweet.Some Malays serve them with grated coconut.This dish is so simple that no recipe is needed.Just cut the banana in slices without peeling the skin.Steam for 10 minutes.Done! Great for breakfast or supper,simple and delicious!

Plantains growing on the tree
Plantains growing on the tree

Baked plantain does not taste as good as the steamed and the pan-fry plantain.As such,recipe of baking pisang tanduk will not be covered here.Personally,I am in favour of only these two ways of cooking pisang tanduk.

Finally just one word of reminder :

The big banana plantain is not to be confused with the plantain herb(plantago major).

Tempoyak,the Malaysian fermented durian

Tempoyak,the local fermented durian is well liked by the Malaysians and Indonesians as well.Whenever there are excess durians,people will make durian kueh and tempoyak.


Tempoyak in plastic container
Tempoyak in plastic container

In Sarawak,tempoyak are sold at the market everyday.It tastes sour and salty with a lot of durian nutty flavour, great for cooking soup with tang hoon or glass noodles.


Tempoyak soup with tang hoon and daun kesum.
Tempoyak soup with tang hoon and daun kesum.
Tempoyak soup with glass noodles
  • 2 tbs tempoyak
  • 1 bundle of glass noodle,about 45 gm – soaked in water for 15 min.
  • 500 ml water
  • 1 dry chilly
  • daun kesum
  • 1 tsp of brown sugar(optional)
  1. Slightly stir-fry tempoyak with a bit of oil in the kuali.
  2.   Add in all other ingredients including the daun kesum, and boil for 3 min or until the noodles turn transparent.
  3. Do not add salt as tempoyak is salty by itself.
  4. Garnish with fresh daun kesum leaves.

This soup tastes great, with a faint aroma of durian and that exotic fragrance of daun kesum.It is sour and appetizing.


Another great dish with tempoyak is by stir-frying it with fried tempe.

Tempoyak stir-fry with tempe.
Tempe stir-fried with tempoyak
Tempoyak stir-fry with tempe
  • 2 tbs of tempoyak,mixed with 1 tbs of water
  • 60 – 70 gm of tempe – cut into 1 cm cubes
  • 1 tsp of  brown sugar
  • Red and green chilly, one each – sliced
  • Cilantro or chinese celery – 1/2 cup,finely chopped
  • l tbs of corn oil
  1.  Lightly fry the tempe with 1 tbs of corn oil until the cubes turn    brown.Dish out and set aside.
  2.  Add in tempoyak and fry until it turns slightly brown and smell fragrant.
  3.  Stir-fry the tempe and chillies with the fried tempoyak.
  4. Add in the cilantro and brown sugar.

A great dish of sour and sweet taste,very appetizing.


Finally,the big question – How to make tempoyak?

  • 1 kg  durian pulp (strained for 1 hr to get rid of excess water)
  • 1 – 2  tbsp  rock salt
  1.  Mash the durian pulp in a big pot.
  2. Mix the mashed durian flesh with rock salt.
  3.  Cover the pot and keep the salted pulp at room temperature.
  4.  Usually it will turn sour after  3 – 4 days.Once it turns sour,scoop the tempoyak into plastic containers and store in the fridge.

Tempoyak can last very long in the fridge.


Enjoy making your own tempoyak !