November 1, 2009

Salted Ensabi/Salted Indigenous Mustard Green


Drying ensabi on a rattan tray.

A good glass bottle with a good seal or cap.

Kesam Ensabi Salad

The process of salting excess vegetables especially in the longhouse is a normal "housewife" thing and has been around for as long as the Ibans have been around. In this way the longhouse Iban folks in particular would always have a side dish of preserved vegetables ready when extra food is called for.

It has taken me quite sometime to gather enough courage to stride out on my own and salt the ensabi all by myself. In the past I could depend on friends and relatives to give/sell to me a small bottle once in a while. Last week I took the daunting challenge and bought about RM4 worth of ensabi (mustard green). The ensabi has a wasabi taste and is very delightful to the discerning. It is definitely a favoured vegetable amongst the Ibans (both rural and urban).

First I chose the leaves carefully and wash them . It does not matter if some of the leaves are yellowish. The important part is the leaves must be dry and wilted.

The leaves were then dried in a rattan tray as shown in the second photo until they were wilted and moisture almost all gone. (layu is the term)

When the leaves were drying or wilting in the sun I cooked some rice with a lot of water. The sticky water from the boiling rice was kept aside and cooled.

When the leaves were wilted I put them in a big jar and used a big wooden spoon to mix the rock or sea salt well into the leaves. (You add enough salt by tasting it. Do not add too much salt.) Then finally I poured in about a cup of the cooked rice water into the jar. A tablespoon of sugar would be excellent!

Some housewives have claimed that squeezing the salt and the leaves together is a good idea. But I don't do it. So it is really up to you.

Finally I allowed the vegetable to ferment in the well sealed jar for about two or three days. I would stir and mix the vegetables once a day to ensure the salting process took place.

The brownish salted vegetables would be ready for stir frying or making of soup or even making a nice salad with some local ingredients.

This salted vegetable is the same as any kiam chai you can buy in town. The best part is that you have made it yourself and the salt is controlled.

I will be doing this salting of the ensabi from time to time so that by Christmas I would have enough bottles ( I use jam bottles) to give to friends relatives and my children.

Advice : do not make too much each time. About RM4 worth of ensabi or 4 bundles each time is a good start. In this way we can prevent wastage. Buy the ensabi later in the day and you might get a bargain as the farmers would like to go home. Scout around first before you make the purcahse. Choose ones which are clean and have no mud or sand.

Wishing you sunny days for your preservation of ensabi or kesam (salted) ensabi.......cheers!


wenn said...

that's nice..

Superman said...

thanks for sharing. My mum love kim chai and so do I.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Wenn

thanks for visiting. Yeah it is very exciting to make you own kiam chai and especially in anticipation of Christmas...


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Would you be making kiam chai for your mum?

All the best...

William said...

Sabi...hahaha...we went to longhouse and this is always cooked for us. The taste is strong and I always encourage everyone to try it. I have been eating this veg when I was young. I like it and didn't realise that it can be preserved in this manner.

Sarawakiana@2 said...


thanks. I am glad you like it.....may be I can give you some for Christmas if the weather is good!! hahahaha.

Ann said...

Hi CY,

You gave away the Iban's secret recipe LOl.

My mum made a lot of Kiam Chai, but she didn't use any rice water.

We love kiam chai, but the husband is afraid of botulism, so I made it only once. We don't buy also because he is scared. My sis in Australia tells me drying it in the sun will give it the yellow colour.

This veg, is it the ordinary Cai Xin?

Pity you can't make me some.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
What is good is to be shared. But every Iban woman has her own secret way of doing the best kasam ensabi. I think my sister in law makes the best one I have ever eaten.
So far (touch wood) we never suffer from botulism - because everything is sanitised and salt is a good germicide.

this is the Iban ensabi or the indigenous mustard green. I can use the ordinary cai sim...shall try it in Auckland? But I cannot guarrantee the quality...I trust the sun of Sibu....But then who knows? Anything venture is worth it...

I am just adventurous...boh.


Ah Ngao said...

reminds me of kim chee.. i like preserved vege goreng with shark's meat

pennylane said...

ji leh eh chai lu kio hami ah? i si kana teng lang eh kiam chai, is it?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ah Ngao
This is vegetables in brine but with a special fermentation element which is cooked rice water. Interesting point there...vege goreng with shark meat. must try that.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Oh ho...Pennylane.
Ji leh chai si gio sua teng (sorry) kiam chai or ensabi.
Jing ho chiak!!
eh lau nua boh.....buing eh chiak jing bui boh...jia tan po tan po...

Jing hoh jo....beh kang koh!!

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post. Nice to know that cigku also knows how to make kasam mother is laughing at the back....LOL....congratulations. Join the crazy gang!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi K....Nice of you to drop by...necessity is the mother of invention. But basically I like to make things grandmother used to say that other people can do things for us but if we can do it ourselves it is best....Well I am glad I am in the Kelab Kasam Ensabi now...anytime!


indianist said...

With the help of your guide i prepared a soup which is delicious thanks for the information

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