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 and edible flower by the Malaysians and Indonesians. 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

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 




  •   130 g 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 soy sauce to taste
  1. Stir-fry tempe until slightly brown.
  2. Add in chopped chilies, the sliced beans and  bunga kantan.
  3. Season with light soya sauce.
  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 chilies. Add miso and brown sugar to taste.

Terung dayak soup recipe



  • 350 g  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 soy source
  • 10 g  vegetarian belacan or miso
  • 30 g 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 soy 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 soy source and mushroom powder.


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