November 5, 2009

Nang Chong Stories: Kundeh or Dabai Paste

This is the tropical black "olive" or black dabai which is a favourite end of the year seasonal fruit of the indigenous people as well as the non-indigenous people of Sarawak. This fruit is not found any where else outside Sarawak hence it is a very unique Borneo fruit.

It is like a miniature avocado but it has to be cooked by soaking in hot water for about half an hour. Later when they are ready to be eaten the fruits are shaken with a bit of sugar and salt and some soy sauce. They are eaten on their own as a snack or as a dish together with other food during a meal.

The kernels can also be eaten.

The dabai has a wide range of quality. The best dabai are slightly oily or LUNAK (an Iban word meaning buttery) and sweet. The skin is thin and the flesh is thick and very tasty. The poorest quality dabai is thin in flesh with a thick chewy skin. The flesh is furthermore sourish and even unpleasant.

This particular season has been an abundance of dabai every where. I have not known a single time when one can buy two kilos of dabai for 6 ringgit in Miri in the last twenty years!! Dabai has even been known to fetch up to 25 ringgit per kilo some years ago. It was like eating gold. I suppose years ago when I was a child dabai cost about $2 per kati during a bad dabai year. But then the Straits Dollar was so big and $2- could buy one whole day's food for the family.

When there is an over abundance of dabai we usually buy a lot more like 6 or 7 kilos to make dabai paste or kundeh. And we get a nice paste (rather like pesto) as shown in the photo above.

Friends and relatives in the longhouse would also make a lot of kundeh for sale and for gifts for those living in the urban areas or in West Malaysia.

Kundeh is easy to make. Just take the flesh from the cooked dabai and mix with enough salt and allow the mixture to stand for a day or so. When the mixture is just nice for eating the kundeh can be used in a stir fry with anchovies.

I have used kundeh as part of my fried rice. In this case my fried rice turns a little purple. An excellent fried rice with kundeh can have the following ingredients:

2 eggs - beaten
l yam (all chopped up and deep fried already)
some corn kernels
cubes from one sausage
some fresh prawns
some chopped onions and garlic
some fried anchovies

My maternal grandmother used to preserve her dabai using a lot of soy sauce and sugar. She would put her dabai in a big Horlicks bottle. In this way the whole family could have dabai when they were short of food on the table. I used to enjoy eating the preserved dabai with my porridge in the evening. She would always ask my uncle to take out the bottle of Hor lick Kek (she could not pronounce Horlicks) with dabai...and then we would all enjoy the sweetish and saltish preserved dabai. She would laugh and say how good the preserved dabai was...and how rice was so easily swallowed. In Foochow this was called "buong loh" meaning rice could be easily swallowed. And we would really raise our chopsticks to that phrase!!  Life was simply good then!

Thinking about it only makes me very very homesick for bygone family days in the wooden house by the river side of Sg. Ma'aw.


Superman said...

Never try Dabai that way. Hmm...I love Dabai. The Dabai in your photos are so big and I guess it will be tasty as well. Dabai session coming soon. Now started already.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Miri has been having excess harvest/production. So we went into preservation mode. I have made about 3 kg of kundeh for Christmas.


Ann said...

I can eat a whole bowl of just soften Dabai by myself. Memoris of chopping the seed into two, and making them missiles until my dad stopping us because the projectiles can blind people.

Isn't it surprising that God blessed only Sarawak has this yummy Dabai?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
Nice to know that you like Dabai...and the is very dangerous to chop the seeds into two. I use the mortar and pestle. Not so good but the seeds don't fly like missiles..

God is good to us.

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