June 15, 2009

Kapayang

The Kapayan Tree is very important to the Iban community especially to their culinary arts. According to one of my relatives the fruit is a luxury item as it is seasonal and not many people grow the tree in their garden or "temuda". The fruit when processed is delicious and enhances the flavours of meat and vegetables. Furhermore the leaves are used as part of their famous meat preservation or kasam.

Thus the leaves of the kapayan are very important and valued amongst the Ibans in the longhouses.

Although the community leaders of the Ibans have often mentioned the importance of this special tree not much has been documented about the possibility of having the plant grown in at least a small scale farm. A check in the Internet bears no result.

At the moment most longhouses would have a few of these trees growing here and there near the longhouse. A relative of mine has two trees but when I was taking the photos the trees were not fruiting as it was not in season. Perhaps another time.

Although some preserved kapayan fruit can be purchased in most Indigenous markets(tamu) I must really caution the uninitiated because poorly processed kapayan fruits may be lethal as they can be full of cyanide. (re: Greenspot)






Preserved kapayan fruit when used in cooking meat or fish gives the dish an enhanced flavour. In fact the more you eat the food enhanced by kapayan the more you will like it. It can even be seen as a kind of addiction to a small degree.

My favourite way of using slices of preserved kapayan fruit is cooking it with tapioca leaves and kechalak or bunga kentang. The aroma is fantastic!

20 comments:

greenspot said...

Sarawakiana,

I suspect it is not arsenic in the fruit and leaves but rather cyanide. The use of kepayan leaves with the presence of cyanide helps to prserves meat and in the olden day it is really important especially before the advent of refrigeration. And the cyanide will be destroyed by the heat in cooking besides adding flavour to the meat. Isn't that ingenious use of plant. Well, it is a traditional indigenous food preservation technology.

Greenspot.

Greenspot said...

Sarawakiana,

Do you have any idea whether the whole leaves are mixed with the meat or the leaves are mashed before mixing with the meat in kasam?

Greenspot

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Greenspot
It is nice of you to write. I am sorry I actually was told it was cyanide but put down the wrong word. I must change it...it is the same element in tapioca..which we all know as common knowledge.
The kapayan leaves are sliced thinly and mix roughly with the salted meat. It turns blackish but has a nice taste when cooked.
I must ask my tamu friends if they sell dried kapayan leaves tomorrow. I actually forgot to ask them this very important question. Daun Bungkang is sold in the dried form and I have a huge tree in my backyard.
My next post is sea hibiscus.
Following that is pandanus with the pineapple like fruit. Is that mengkuang?

Anonymous said...

Sarawakiana, the rubber tree seeds can also be used to preserve & enhance the flavours of meat & are normally used as a replacement for kapayang leaves as rubber trees are commonly grown around longhouses.

Watt said...

Sarawakiana,

I really admired your effort in sourcing for materials/articles which make your blog very informative & interesting. Keep up the good work & continue writing... correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure that you are referring to a 'kapayang plant'.

Greenspot said...

Sarawakiana,

It is interesting to know that you have the bungkang tree. Scientifically it belongs to the genus Syzygium whoch is in the jambu family (Myrtaceae). Does it taste sourish? It is a truly Sarawakian condiment, our version of oregano, rosemary, etc...Looking bungkang forward to your photo of daun bungkang and on sea hibiscus.

Yes, Mengkuang scientifcally belongs to the genus Pandanus or cockscrew pine.

Greenspot

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Wat for visiting! And your nice compliments too. As I travel I like to jot down notes and take photographs of what I see. My blog becomes a journal of information and teaching materials for my children actually.
I will have to ask Greenspot . Is kapayang a tree/shrub/plant?
To mee anything that grows more than 3 feet is a tree (with a trunk and standing upright). Sometimes it is difficult to translate "pokok".

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Greenspot
Thanks for looking out for me!
I will photograph my bungkang tree today. But I do not have much material to write about.
Daun bungkang is like Aji No Moto. It makes steamed fish taste a little better (if you like it). It is nice with kasam coooked in bamboo. I add it to some of my indigenous soups.
By the way do you have any information about daun Subur?

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Anon
Yes thank you for reminding me! Rubber seeds can also be eaten in fact on its own.

One of my student teachers told me about her experience and (subsequent surprise) how she was taught to eat rubber seeds and even young rubber leaves when she was teaching in the ulu!

Thank you again for visiting.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Greenspot
Is there a specific article/book about kepayang?
What is the biggest/tallest kapayang in Sarawak ?

Greenspot said...

Sarawakiana,

Do you have a photo of daun subur?

Greenspot

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Greenspot.

Yes! I have a small sapling of it growing in my backyard. But the growth is very slow...Give me some tips please. I know it has to have a forest floor temperature and some times my backyard is too hot....
I took some photos of daun long this morning too. I have two clumps of this daun (for wrapping rice amongst the Orang Ulu) growing in my backyard...
I have called my house "River Cottage" and in fact in the next few months I shall be growing more jungle plants as an experiment. There will be lots of teething problems. My dabai broke into two because the leaves and trunks were too huge!!

Greenspot said...

Sarawakiana,

I have not come across any specific article or book on Kepayang. If you do come across, I am interest to know.

Kepayang can grow into a big tree. You are right in your definition on trees and shrubs. "Tree" are defined by their trunk diameter and height. Also, as you have noted trees have straight trunk (more vertical growth) when compared to shrubs which tend to have lateral or side growth.

Please check the natural habitat of daun subur. It is important if you want to grow them. FOr instance, a plant from mountain top such as Kinabalu will not survive in lowland. Similarly, a plant from swamp areas or river bank need more water. Plants are also divided into sun plants (or pioneer species) and shade plants (climax species). It is important to know that as well. Plants that grows on the floor of jungle tend yto be shade plants and need to be shaded from direct sunlight. It can also be best grown indoor.

Greenspot

Greenspot said...

Sarawakiana,

Besides bungkang there is also a plant called daun ajinomoto. Scientifically it is called Albertisia.

Greenspot

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks for all your advice!

Will go for a nature's walk with friend this weekend. Hope it will be fruitful for all of us.

Greenspot said...

Sarawakiana,

I undestand that kepayang leaves are only used for fish kasam and not meat. Is that true?

Greenspot

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Greenspot

No. I have used the leaves for both meat and fish preservation.

Perhaps it is an individual's choice.

Also I have cooked chicken with preserved kapayang in bamboo along with kechalak and
tapioca leaves. Wonderful!!

Gaharuman said...

Thanks for the info!

ahock said...

Many Ibans are rather afraid to eat anything mixed with kepayang. I may be wrong there. But on the other hand my being a non native I really like the meat preserved with some kepayang leaves which my colleagues often cook. may be because they are from the Kanowit area so they are not shy to present their dish to us. But any way I give A+ for their cooking!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ahock
I know a lot of people fear taking the kapayang in case it is badly processed.

Also aome do not like its taste.

So every man to his taste. Some don't like cheese. Some don't like wine.

Some like Sake but don't like Tuak. Some like Carlsberg but not Tsintao.

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