Poisonous if eaten raw, the hydrogen cyanide content has to be removed through time consuming methods. Essentially, the kernels have to be soaked and the water changed repeatedly to leach out the poison. Another method requires the seeds to be boiled and then buried in ash wrapped in banana leaves for forty days. Kepayang (or buah keluak) is found in Peranakan, Malay and several indigenous cuisines.
Sabung (in iban) fruits when red ripened, are boiled “like peanuts" or stir-fried, together with their leaves or simply mixed with meat.
The flesh of the Teradu (in Bidayuh) is thinly sliced and stir fried with vegetables or on its own. Has a garlic scent
Apart from the extraction of palm oil from the seed, the palm tree fruit can be eaten raw or cooked.
SEEDS, FRUITS, FLOWERS & FERNS
Dabai, seed & kernel
The local olive is popular for its delectable taste, but the kernel of the Dabai seeds are as delicious when simply boiled.
The fruit is dried for several days after which it is then pounded to a fine powdery texture. Steaming this will result in a thick, butter-like consistency. This is then stuffed into bamboo sections. A slab of this on hot steaming rice is scrumptious.
The kernel removed from the brown skin is thinly sliced and can be eaten raw, cooked or as an Ulam with sambal.
Rubber tree seed
Children collect these seeds for the pleasant sound it makes when rattled, but the rubber seed kernel when soaked overnight tastes like almonds. Can be stir- fried with salted fish.
Easy access to and from other cultures and countries spoil us with limitless culinary know- how. But, the internet, while it opens us up to the world, might just cause us not to see what we have in our own backyard. The sheer possibility of getting (to know about) any kind of food under the sun is remarkable. Learning to whip up a Mexican guacamole with avocados from Kenya, or churn out an Italian Pesto Genovese with imported cheese and pine nuts is something we can easily realise. Yet knowledge of many of our wild and edible local seeds, fruits and ferns remains fairly unknown to the general public. Their commercial sustainability no doubt plays a role in making these foods less popular, although not for the want of trying by some of our indigenous groups. Names and techniques vary from one ethnic group to another, but this achieves only to make the dish more fascinating.
Here are a few examples, far from complete information, but nevertheless an attempt to whet our appetite for more culinary knowledge and perpetuate our Sarawakian multicultural cuisines that are second to none.
Known as Prawn's Whiskers for their appearance, the young shoots are prepared like green asparagus. The mature side of the stem discarded and skin peeled. Cut up and stir-fry with "anything".
Harvested for the processing of cocoa and cocoa butter, the outer white flesh of the cocoa seeds is delicious eaten raw.
Only the leaves are picked to stir-fry or blanch for Ulam.
Embedded in a translucide and paper thin sleeve, buah menuang bursts out of its huge melon shaped fruit when ripe, resulting in these 'flying eagles' to descend gracefully to the ground. The kernel is boiled till soft. Like the kepayang, it is toxic raw. The plant is a vine.
Buah Tepus - Cucuma
Called "buah'tubu'tana" in the Kelabit language, this bright red fruit of the tepus plant sprouts directly out of the ground. The 'petals' fall off to become a bulb-like cluster of berries, ripe to eat raw when they darken in colour.
The name upa' dulun means "that looks like yam" is a waterlily with bright yellow flowers. Simply blanch the stems, leaves and flowers and enjoy with a good sambal.
Daun & Buah Sabung
The red ripened fruits are picked and boiled 'like peanuts' or simply stir-fried together with the young leaves.