November 3, 2009

Empit or Emblanjau

I have not realised what I have been eating for many years is very exotic to my visiting West Malaysian friend. She found the empit very tasty and would like to bring some home for her mother!! Locally called empit this is common food to the Iban community and is seasonal. Its more exotic name is emblanjau.

This photo shows the uncooked empit in a standard ceramic Chinese spoon to indicate that it is rather small and delicate off white in colour. These kernels are very soft when taken out of their furry seeds or fruits. The Baram and the Limbang rivers are home to the empit.A bank officer friend from Mukah said that when he was young there was a huge empit tree in his family garden. He too loved to collect the seeds from the river and enjoy eating them. His mother cooked empit as part of their vegetable dishes.




 
 It is usually fried as a vegetable with anchovies and eaten with rice. If you only have a bit of empit then you can cook it with some young corn and pumpkin leaves.

 

 Here's a small bowl of empit for my evening meal. Nice and tasty. It tastes like unsalted kua chi or melon seeds.





This is another version - deep fried empit - and it is really tasty. When eaten as a snack with beer or whiskey it is nutty and very tasty. And you really cannot stop putting them into your mouth. Mixed with cashew nuts and peanuts you also get a good mix of texture. Fried with some tumeric and chili and sugar you actually have a good modern Malaysian snack which is out of this world!! When offered in a dish of roasted mixed nuts from Sarawak to entertain your guests during the festive seasons you can really win many hearts.

However I would rather leave the empit to the rural populace so that they would have enough food to simply live.

The empit is very popular amongst the Ibans who have been living by the river edges for centuries in Sarawak. They have learned how best to use this fruit or seed when they find them floating in the river. Women and children will patiently crack the seeds and fill a bucket with these kernels. In no time they have a good lunch.

Today the Iban women traders have learned to pack these delectable kernels in small plastic bags and sell them at l ringgit per packet. Being very perishable these kernels have to be sold within the day hence they are not pricey. Most mornings when these longhouse ladies come down for their weekend trading they can make about 20 ringgit from their jungle produce. But of course if there are a lot of women looking for empit by the river side then there might not be enough for everyone!! The empit ripens at the same time as the ensurai.

The empit has never been propagated nor mass cultivated by the locals. Left in the thick jungle and riverine forest the trees fare possible extinction actually if no one is making an effort to protect its future. Modern logging and other developments have damaged many river bank tree population. I hope there is still a fairly large population of this tree left in Sarawak for our future generations.

I hope my readers in Sibu and Kuching can also find empit in your tamu or native markets.

Cheers.

25 comments:

Daniel Yiek said...

Pls continue the great work on documenting local produce!

May I suggest that you spread the text in between the photos (instead of putting all the pics in front and all the text at the back.)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Daniel....
Sure I will do that...

Ah Ngao said...

waa...really i wanna "tabik" you.now i know myself,so kurang ilmu about food for survival or sustenance.you scoop them with net near the river?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ah Ngao

You wait by the river side and you wait for the seeds to float by...usually quite a lot ---then you scoop with a basket. Usually women and children do this...cutting open the seeds need skill because the seeds are thumb sized.

But nowadays you go to the tamu and buy these in plastic packets...or in small plastic baskets at one or two ringgit each....

Really nice and fresh...

wenn said...

looks delicious..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Wenn
Yeah. The empit has a refreshing taste. But fried with anchovies or bilis it is really very delicious.

I am sure if it is sundried and mixed together with sun dried tomatoes it will be great organic food for vegetarians and non vegetarians.

Superman said...

Nice to go with beer, I guess. Hehe.

langkau said...

Do you still use your old sarawakiana? I need to update my bookmark. Many thanks. :-)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Superman
Definitely. I had some beer with it the other night. Excellent. The seeds enhanced the taste of beer .
May be one day you can try it.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Langkau

I actually wanted to change all the sizes of the photos I used for Sarawakiana but as I am rather busy at the moment I still cannot merge the two blogs because of the overload of photos. Now I am using this one...until further notice.

Thanks.

Bengbeng said...

first time i heard of or saw this

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawaknia, Never heard of this too. But sure looks delicious...
I must try it when I balek kampong visit my BIL in Sarawak one of these days.
You sure can cook....your hubby slim? Ha ha ha. Lee.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Bengbeng
I first learned to eat it in Miri. Not in Sibu. So I am not sure if it is available in Sibu. Try to check it out? It is now the season.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Uncle Lee
Nice of you to visit! Welcome always.
It is a jungle produce and if the local indigenous hawkers can get hold of it we too can buy them..the wild boars love this seed too.
You must come at the end of the year to Sarawak.

Hubby is very slim and a better cook. A very picky eater he is also an exercise addict. hahahah...

Regina Travel said...

Any photos to show? Is that sell in the Miri Market by Iban?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Regina
I did not take a photo of the ladies selling empit in Miri Tamu Muhibbah - one day I will do so....usually my aunt (who does the marketing of vegetables for me) will buy the types of vegetables she likes to eat and then she will help me do the cooking in the evenings.

will bring my camera to take photos later.

Ann said...

How come I don't know this?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann

This is indigenous food....longhouse folks have to collect the seeds from the riverside when they are bathing in the morning for example...or they wait for the seeds to float by deliberately....then it is food for lunch when it is in season...

Greenspot said...

Sarawakiana,

The fruit is botanically known as Pentapadon motleyi. Good posting.


Greenspot

Greenspot said...

Sorry, should be Pentaspadon

Anonymous said...

There were many empit trees in Long Lellang and other part of Limbang division. When we were children we really loved this food. Now my relatives tell me they have to buy them in the tamu...food from paradise I must say. Even worse now we live in KL we are happy to see pictures of empit. Olden food - now only in pictures! What a pity. Thanks.

S.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Greenspot. You are great!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear S

Yes I heard that there were lots of empit trees on the river banks of Mendalam and Medamit rivers. In fact a recent report from Kanowit also tell tales of how popular empit still is amongst both the Ibans and the Cina pasar kanowit!!
Kanowit still has many empit trees so one day I will go up there to take some photos. May be some other bloggers would do the same too.

Thanks for visiting.

Michael said...

Great stuff! Just learned of this delicacy over the last CNY :-)

Mus said...

looks delicious .. I want to try it too