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.