November 26, 2009


The rambai is an indigenous fruit of Sarawak in particular and Borneo in general.

Very sour most of the times and therefore not as popular as the langsat or duku langsat this fruit is now put at the back of the shelves in the market because other fruits have surfaced in the last ten years. The skin is rather thin and the flesh chewy (not crunchy like some of the best rambutans). Furthermore the seeds are usually swallowed with the flesh because the flesh does not come off easily.

The rambai tree is small and branches are brittle. Quite often children have fallen off the small tree because of breaking branches. However ytoda this fruit, a common backyard tree in the kampong , has even been considered "out of fashion" by even the Ibans and Melanaus! In fact many of the older trees have been cut down and never replaced. In this way the rambai might even been on its way to extinction.

A few adventurous and enterpreneurial Ibans I know have tried to process the fruit into local rambai rice wine. Like the pineapple the rambai is usually on the sour side and is just as suitable for making tuak. The rice wine (tuak) turns out to be quite palatable. In fact if a greater effort is made I suppose this little homemade wine industry can be quite lucractive. Pineapple tuak has been sold at RM 8 per bottle (Johnny Walker bottle). And I have been given one bottle of rambai tuak several years ago. Somehow I can still remember its white wine quality similar in body to a Riesling in fact. The flavour of course was similar to that of sake.

The name of the fruit must  have been adopted by one of the mukims of Brunei . Today Rambai is a mukim in the Tutong District of Brunei. It is located in the south bordering Mukim Lamunin to the north, Limbang, Sarawak (Malaysia) to the east and south, Mukim Sukang (Belait District) to the south-west, Mukim Bukit Sawat  (Belait District) to the west and Mukim Ukong to the north-west. Mukim Rambai contain one of the largest lake within Brunei called Tasek Merimbun or Merimbun Lake (in English) and also one of the largest dam in Brunei as well, which is Empangan Air Jubli Perak Benutan or simply the Silver Jubilee Benutan Dam (in English).

A friend said that  her grandmother used to cook river fish or even prawns with the skin of the rambai. She remembered that the soupy dishes tasted very good. She and her family continue to eat rambai whenever they have the opportunities. For sometime they do not have a kampong to return to because they have lost their land to timber logging in the Baram. Now they have their own low cost housing in Miri and have only one belimbing tree and some vegetables in plots in the backyard.

According to one of the hawkers  who brought some rambai for sale from Ulu Balingian many younger Sarawakians are strangers to this fruit. Only the older consumers have come looking for rambai. To him it is sad that such a refreshing fruit has this kind of fate. May be the govenment should consider doing research on how to improve the breed.


Jay said...

Interesting chronology of Rambai. Just to add a bit, it is a fruit that close the fruit season. I meant the fruit that will ripe only when all the other fruit are over. When I was young i always climb rambai tree, eat the right on the tree, went down the tree only after there no more appetite for it. There are still old rambai tree stand strong in my kampong. I will share with you later after i took the photo of it.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Jay for a photo of a rambai tree. Haven't seen one since 1975 (in Kanowit)!

Nice memories of your younger days.

Ann said...


May be you should get a big plot of land at your Father in law's long house, and cultivate all these interesting fruit trees and plants. I could get my sis, professor Marg Chan to help you ID the plants.

I help you promote this eco agr tourism. The Ang Mo tourist would love shooting the squirrels, the green peace would protest at the other corner.

Do you remember the black shell tiny fruit, which we crack open, and have the tiny brownish thin meat fruit? Once, I tricked an Ang Mo friend and he popped the whole thing in his mouth, and said, Not very nice. I couldn't duplicate this with my West Malaysia husband. My husband said, you think I am so stupid.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Ann. Wonderful idea.

I think the fruit you mention must be the Keranji.

I admire a place in Australia called Cape Trib which offers seedlings of exotic plants and fruits from Asia. They are doing well.

Yes I think my FIL's place would be ideal but the problem is the oil palm companies are closing in and we are struggling to keep our land ....hope that by the skin of our teeth we will succeed. Have to pray hard.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuptim said...

I'm surprised that mai fai farang can be found in sarawak. I have been in malaysia for a while, and have not seen this in kuala lumpur. I must visit sarawak soon, as I see a lot of similar fruits and vegetation found on this blog. you must be very proud of your country :)


Ah Ngao said...

i ever tasted our local tuak ,bottled by registered co.,with the brand name "Royalist" - boleh tahan...yunno

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Tuptim
Thanks for visiting and letting me know about your fruits. Hope oneday you can visit Sarawak and seefor yourself the fruits and nature.
I am indeed very proud of being Malaysian and being Sarawakian in particular.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao
Royalist is one brand sold in Kuching only. Never saw it being sold elsewhere in Sarawak!!

It is good .

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakiana, I have not eaten this fruit can't remember when, but remember spitting out the seeds when eating with friends see who can spit furthest.
I remember the real sour ones too.
We have langsat on sale here but have never seen this one. Must keep an eye out.
Have a nice day, Lee.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Uncle Lee
Yes it is hard to spit out the seeds. I find it easier to just to swallow the seeds too. But may be the style is just that.

No I don't think rambai is exportablele as it can only last one or two days upon harvesting.

You will have to find rambai in Sarawak and Thailand and at the end of the fruit season (as advised by Jay).


Ann said...

My younger sis (3 years my junior from SES) Dr Margaret Chan @Uitm, came for a fleeting visit.
1: she knows you,(your name) either from our autographs, and I said, I don't think I had asked you to sign in my autograph. May be it was Charles, since you guides and boy scouts had so much to do with each other.
2: She tells me this fruit is what we call LAU SAI GOU. no need for explanation.LOL

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi ..

Just asked you about Margaret....

Yeah we kids were fond of signing and writing messages in autograph books. I still have mine!!

Oh yes...lau sai buah...

You know we forget that we Chinese should call our fruits guo...and in China I said lou sai buah...or buah langsat...and buah duku forgetting that these mainland chinese do not know "buah..." who corrupted our dialect has become in Sarawak!!..

For example...Gua kahwin Singapore lang......

lai lai chiah buah....

wai ka lu kongsi ......

So many Malay words. now.

Ask Elizabeth or Margaret to call me or email me.

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