Being the most controversial jungle produce of our homeland, kepayang the football fruit (Pangium edule Reinw) is well liked by the Ibans here and they are the people who know how to prepare the nuts which can be poisonous if eaten raw. Packets of prepared kepayang kernels which are crunchy and nutty are sold in markets. The kepayang fruits are non-seasonal.
Repeated process of boiling and soaking in water can get rid of the hydrocyanide content in the nuts. Unlike the Indonesians who prepare dried buah keluak for peranakan cooking, our natives break the fruits and take out the seeds which must be boiled for at least three hours. To extract the kernels, a layer of seed coat has to be removed. With all the kernels collected, the natives continue their tedious preparation of the edible kernels for sale in the market by soaking them in several changes of water for a few days. However, it is better to boil again the Kepayang kernels bought from the markets until no bitter taste is detected. The presence of hydro-cyanide is indicated by the bitter taste. The carefully prepared nuts can then be eaten plain with salt or stir-fry with tapioca shoots or ulam. Another way of cooking is to stir-fry with long bean and dried chillies. Add brown sugar and thick soya source to taste.
Ibans who live nearby the river would collect the kepayang seeds in a gunny sack and soak it in the river for a few days. In this way, the hydrocyanide can be removed by the running water since it is soluble in water. Boiling and soaking the nuts continues after this process.
Indonesian way of preparing kepayang seeds is different.They ferment the boiled seeds in wood ash for a couple of months.The kernel then turns into a black and greasy mass which is used in cooking Peranakan curry chicken. It is called buah keluak in Indonesia.
Here is a picture of the big kepayang leaf .
The most interesting part of Kepayang tree is its leaves. I used to wait for Malay boat men to stop by our jetty and bought salted fish from them. My late mom would get kepayang leaves from her Iban friends, chopped the big leaves finely and mixed them with the fish. After a few weeks, she would stir fry the fish together with the shredded leaves. I just cannot forget the rich taste of the kepayang leaves, very crispy, salty and aromatic.
There are two other local nuts which are more well known because they can be found in West Malaysia too. The green ones are Petai and the dark ones are Jering. Little is known of the white petai found growing wild in the jungle. The white petai is considered rare because it is mostly wild unlike the green petai which are semi-wild or cultivated.
Petai seed is slightly bitter with an astringent taste and strong smell. It is surprisingly delicious when it is cooked with vegetarian belacan and chilli. People get addicted to its unique taste easily. Somehow this nut aids in digestion so it can be used as an appetizer. Our natives like to roast the long pods of petai over fire, peel the pod skin and eat the seeds with sambal belacan. Petai dish is forever popular in local restaurants and cafes.
Petai is more popular than Jering because it is less bitter and the nuts texture is not that tough. Jering seed has astringent taste and stronger pungent smell than the petai seed. Most of the time we have to boil jering seeds to make it tender but in the case of petai, there is no need to boil young petai seeds. Just stir fry it with sambal or cook it in Kelabit(an ethnic group) way, i.e, stir fry with bunga kantan and chilli, add salt and lime juice. Another option is blanch all the ingredients and mix them together with salt and lime juice.
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