November 30, 2009

Rajah Ciku : A Majestic Fruit Indeed

The ciku is one of the sweetest and nicest fruits from Sarawak in particular and South East Asia in general.

Ciku or Sapodilla is usually consumed fresh after it has been plucked and softened or ripened to a certain softness. In fact it is a fruit which is consumed across the board - by the very poor and the very rich. It is also commercialised for its flavour in sherbets, drinks, butter and ice-creams. Very often we would put our home grown cikus or the hawker bought cikus in our rice bins for one or two days. When they soften they are ready to be eaten. We do not usually eat the unripen cikus as they are full of the sticky latex. Even when they are fully ripen and soft they still have some sticky latext especially when we do not pare off enough of the skin.

My mother once had a sticky slice of the ciku and the latex stuck onto her upper palate. She has always worn dentures in her adult life (poor dental care during the Japanese Occupation) and her dentures and the sticky latex caused her to choke. She almost died ! We felt so sorry for her then because we did not know what to do as we were still small. Ever since that episode we never bought cikus or brought them home. We were traumatised.

I found this rather huge species of ciku in the Muhibbah Tamu recently. They are bigger than the normal traditional ciku. The vendor called them RAJAH Ciku. They taste the same as the original ciku but fetch higher prices.

According to this farmer-vendor cikus are getting rarer now because the older trees are getting too old and have not been replaced by new ones in most gardens around Miri.

These fruits in the photo are easily 5 cm in diameter and weigh about 200 gm. So a kilo of them was roughly 5 fruits. They were sold at RM6 per kilo. And on the following day I could not find the fruits any more.

Some creative cooks and homemakers have also used it to make pies, syrups, sauces, jams and is fermented to get wine or vinegar. You might be surprised that in Indonesia, the young shoots are eaten either raw or after steaming with rice.

If you like chewing gum you might even be further surprised that it is the latex of the tree M.balata, that coagulates into what is known as chicle, formed the base for chewing gums before synthetic materials came to be used. I would actually prefer chicle to be used. Remember the chewing gum product Chiclets? That is where the name come from.

Medicinally in Java the ciku or sapodilla flowers are used in a powder with other ingredients that is rubbed on the stomach of women after child birth. The seeds, flowers and bark contain tannin and saponin with medicinal properties.

The elders of the Malay and Peranakan communities use the seeds in treating fever. Seeds are also diuretic. Unripe fruits are eaten to stop purging and to treat mild diarrhoea. The Chinese use the bark to treat diarrhoea .

If you remember the man who was responsible for bringing rubber to Malaysia - Henry Ridley - he wrote in his book that Manilkara kauki timber was used in coffin making in Malaya.

The ciku tree has a huge canopy and therefore uses up a lot of garden space. And I will always remember my Grand Aunt (Mrs. JB Chong) having a good ciku tree in her garden. It was a good time for many of us in the late 60's because her daughter-in-law Aunty C S Chong or Aunty Meng Toh used to invite us kids to eat cikus and rambutans. She would slice the chilled cikus nicely and we would enjoy the fruit along with their excellent rambutans. (They also have one of the biggest home refrigerators in Sibu at that time.) I believe she must have blessed many of the Methodist Children's Home children too with her fruits.

Somehow you cannot forget your generous elders who have given you lots of things to eat in your younger days. Thus I  remember Aunty Meng Toh for her generosity and kindness and the Chong Villa for its fruit trees. This special property has been sold to Datuk Hii Yii Peng and Datuk Wong Tuong Kuang. It forms a special island between Queensway (Jalan THO) and Rose Lane.


Superman said...

Long time never eat that. I like the sweetness of Ciku.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Superman

This fruit might be few for sale now.

thanks for visiting.

Bengbeng said...

I got to really hand it to u for doing yr homework. Great post and quite thorough too

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Bengbeng

I believe in knowing what we are eating and why we are eating it.

Have always loved doing homework! Sometimes too late! Life can deal us with strange turns - we do our homework only after a disastrous happening/tragedy/broken heart.

Cheers. What's your email? I need Abana's email too.

Anonymous said...

Dear S
Thanks for posting about ciku. Few of these are found in the market now. We have one old tree at home and likeyou say...the branches spread out too much. My father cut of most of the we have very few fruits even with a lot of fertilizers.

May be someone will develop a new breed.

Great information!! As always. J.

Ann said...

Hi CY,

I did these 4 posts of my parents. I was reading your site where you asked if I could post some old photos.

My mum sadly died in a car accident in 1988 in the Gold Coast of Australia at a young age of 60.

My dad died in 2006 in Kuching at a ripe old age of 84. Could ask for for.



Ann said...

I ate some of the fruits from that buah chiku tree. Mr. Chong and my Dad were best of friends. The first time he gave us the chiku, we didn't like it. Then he told dad that we needed to put them in the rice "gong" like you wrote. But that first experience ruined it, I never liked chiku until I became an adult in Singapore. But the family got the "don't like chiku from the mutated genes.

We prefered their lovely rambutans.

BTW where is Mr. Chong and Ivy Chong? Mr. Chong used to coem and take our phtots. Alas, those photo that were kept in Embang road were all eaten by termites. Your aunty will know those tenants my parents had were from Hell.

They kept so many chicken and ducks that all the trees died.

Ann said...

I did this for you, know any one?


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Justin
Nice to know you and your dad still have an old ciku tree. The only ciku tree I know is in Bekenu and I am going to photograph that one day. But it is too huge for me to put into my small digital camera frame.
Cikus on that tree are like Christmas baubles dotting every tip of the branches!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
I took one whole afternoon reading your postings.
The photos brought me on a long journey back to Sibu days.
Yes DEOs in those days were highly respected and especially those who could speak both English and Chinese well like your Dad.
And your mum looked so wonderful with her beehive hairstyle. She was really pretty. It was not easy to raise so many excellent children and be a community leader at the same time. Thanks for sharing. I wouldlike to use her kebaya photo one day.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
It is so unbelieveable that our lives have been so interwined. CS Chong is actually first cousin to my father. My grandmother Chong is Jin Soon Chong and her brother was Jin Bok Chong - the father of CS Chong.

My uncle CS is now very elderly and living in one of the houses along JBChong Road. Aunty Meng Toh has a bit of eye problem but Dolly is looking after them. Ivy just came back for a fairly long holiday but we missed each other in Miri when she came for a weekend. I was travelling upriver for a few days.

CS Chong was an aspiring photographer and I really think he took very good photos. But later students took over his job (because school magazine committee set up etc) I loved to listen to his piano playing. Do you remember that?

I can email her address to you. (mine is

I continued to visit my aunt and uncle at Embang Road and often asked why your house had run down so much. My aunt just said that sometimes people/tenants can be very bad. And besides all of you have gone overseas. It was so well kept by your mum and dad.

My aunt is leaving her house empty too but she goes back a few times a year. Now she is in Singapore with Ah Chiong.

Ah Ngao said...

hi S'kiana..! i like to know why sometimes i get this harden latex inside the ciku fruit and at times,there's no harden latex at all in some other ciku fruits..??

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakiana, I have eaten, will eat all fruits but will give a pass to Cikus. For some reason or other I took a bite long ago when 6 years old at my grandfather's estate, and did not appreciate the texture or taste....never touched it since, ha ha.
But I sure love Persimons, durians....infact I eat durians very often.

Its cheap here, comes frozen from Thailand. And one hour before eating will take it out of the fridge....and later eat them like ice cream....out of this World, 1/4 frozen durians.
My wife at first thought I was bonkers, she took a thats the way she eats durians.

Good writeup on cikus....I learned something today.
Have a nice day, Lee.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahaha Ah Ngao
Wonderful question. Need to ask a fruit specialist. But then I guess that since it has a latex Chicle it may form a small ball sometimes when there is a slight mutation in the fruit. It could be caused by latex permeating into any "open" space within the fruit during its fruition or even during its flowering period!!
Will check a few books on this. Thanks for asking.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Uncle Lee
It is interesting to learn how you eat durians - 1/4 frozen. Never tried it that way. In fact I "taste" durians and do not go near it at all when the season is around. I can eat tempuyak though.

A lot of people have had strange encounters with my mum. When I think of it I still feel uneasy..."nothing we could do except feel bad..." She could not talk about it for a long time.

Thanks for sharing.

Ann said...

I used to play softball with Ivy Chong. I think she was St Mark's house like us.

CY, if we could meet, we probably can spend days talking.

You are welcomed to use my mum's photo.

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