November 13, 2009

Sengkil or Sengkel or Buas Buas

In 1975 I was transferred by the Education Department  to teach in SEDAYA situated opposite Kanowit town along the Rajang River. Transport was then by river boats and expresses only. The Principal had sole use of the speed boat for emergencies and a long boat to cross the river to and from Kanowit. When piped water was in shortage all teachers and students bathed in the river. We had a few cows owned by the Husbandry Club which even attended the Morning Assembly to the delight of the students.  The Principal was amused but not disconcerted by the extra attendees.

There my life was greatly enriched by the diverse cultural groups I worked with.

One day I was given a big bowl of yam cooked with finely sliced green vegetables by a very understanding member of the school's non teaching staff. It was a most wonderful tasting yam dish I ever had at that time. I learned that the green vegetables were sengkil and that it would help me lactate (My eldest was born in May that year). Since then I had learned to respect this plant which grows wild in the jungles of Sarawak. Sometimes sengkil is sold in the tamu. Recently I found two sengkil plants growing outside my compound to my delight.

The scientific name of sengkel (Iban is sengkil) is Premma Cordiflora.

The leaves are rather big but soft and silky. The top few leaves can be collected for stir frying or boiled into a nice tea.

These are the small fruits of the Sengkil. They can be added to soups and masak pedas to give a special tangy taste.

Older Ibans like to have a dish of sengkil stir fry (with anchovies) or a dish of masak asam pedas of sengkil and keladi when they feel that they have too much wind in the stomach or when they feel some discomfort. I fried some for myself yestereday. Looks like Cangkok Manis but the taste is refreshing and a little bitter.

Apparently sengkil  tea is also good for younger people who suffer from too much eating (hence indigestion).

So from the Chinese point of view the sengkil actually helps to balance the Yin and Yang in a person's body. A bloated stomach can be taken care of by a bowl of tea made from sengkil leaves and some ginger.

The eating of the young leaves in the form of a nice salad with other vegetables will also help to dispel wind in the stomach. Tea made from the twigs of sengkil helps get rid of intestinal worms from children.

The fragrant juice from the pounded leaves can also get rid of the fishy smell of fish during cleaning. Besides eating the leaves raw and drinking tea made from the leaves and twigs and stems during confinement also helps the new mother to lactate.

One of the most famous Ramadan dishes of Sarawak - the Bubur Pedas - requires thin slices of the sengkir to give it the right aroma and taste.

The tree is not very tall and the leaves are very abundant. The leaves have a nice fragrance. The flowers are small and white in colour and little green pearl- like fruits develop rather quickly after the flowering.

And finally one can always make a small floral arrangement out of the pleasant pearl-like fruits and small flowers. When eating alone - the soft citrusy scent of the sengkil leaves make the dinner table very pleasant.


Ann said...


Our lives are more intertwined than we knew. In 1959, my Dad came back from London and was transfered to Kanowit Govt School, known as Agricultural school which is I supposed what you now call SEDAYA.

For one year, we lived there. Fond memories. My sisters Rose and Elizabeth, and bro charles went to school in those long boats. I was too young to go to school then.

Small world.

Ann said...

I don't think I know this plant as a veg, is it commonly used? I remember seeing it.

Back to your old school, were the palm oil trees still there?

Daniel Yiek said...

Good post and education for those not familiar with this!

Greenspot said...


Yes, I know this plant. It grows well in secondary forest,particularly peat swamp area.
Probably disprse by birds which eat the fruits which is the reason they appear in your garden.

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakiana, interesting education. Everytime I pop in here I learn something. You sure know your if you get lost in a jungle, you'll survive, ha ha. Lee.

all3cool said...

Thanks a lot for the delicious candy.We all loved it so much.

wenn said...

something new for me..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
Yes your dad was in the Kanowit Agricultural School which I think at that time was operated by Brother Heery. And I think there were a few other British officers in charge too. In 1963 it became a Government School when Tun Rahman became Chief Minister he named the school after him...Sekolah Datuk Abdul Rahman Yakob. (SEDAYA).
We two are like celestial bodies travelling in different directions yet touching same bases every now and then...Wow!! Did you keep some of your mum's cheongsams? I am just curious.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Sengkil is rather common - like meedin but may be not as universal because it is a little bitter and it is for medicinal purposes. I think the oil palms are all gone by now - erosion or school development.
There's a very good road to the school now.But the Principal still has a long boat and speed boat for his /her use.

Now most principals have a government 4 Wheel.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

You must try Bubor Pedas. Excellent but you can get it only during Ramadan.
Thanks for dropping by.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Greenspot
I did not really pay attention to the shrubs nearby but when my friends came looking for ferns near my house they were very delighted to see the two plants now about 15 feet tall. So they started getting some for themselves. I also took some for a good stir fry.

We also have some bemban growing by the river side too. And some of the ladies have been collecting them.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Uncle Lee
I am humbled by your compliments...just a Mak Cik telling stories...before many of the facts are lost by disuse.

Yeah I will be quite comfortable in a secondary jungle...but may be not a real deep jungle...

Do visit again...may be I will have tongkat Ali for you soon.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Miss you all again this glad you liked the nougat...Have a good mission ...don't forget us.Our prayers go with you.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I hope you can find some sengkil in Ipoh??

Or one day you come and have our Bubur Pedas during Ramadan?

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