June 21, 2010

A Dish from the Heart of Pantu Palm

Normally most people would just buy a palm heart and happily go back to prepare the organic dish ...

Recently a friend reminded me that not many people realise how difficult it is to get a palm shoot from the jungle and how long it takes to prepare. It is also important to know the origin of the palms and their nature. Some obviously are lethal. And a wrong paku or a wrong palm or rattan may be fatal.

An Iban woman is usually a real expert in jungle food gathering. "Have parang can get food" is the slogan. How often do I toy with the idea of setting up a food gathering expedition to improve cross-cultural understanding!! That would really be a brilliant thing to do.

First the family will identify the palm to cut for the festival/welcome the guests. This palm (called pantu) was identified by the family as old enough to cut and it has been growing in their plot or temuda for sometime). The pantu is full of thorns.

Another view of the pantu in the farmland.

The palm has been cut by Grandfather and this is the heart of palm brought home for the festival. Note the special Flinstone markings... or claw like patterns. Whenever you buy a palm heart it is very important that you can see these markings and other markings.

More and more layers are peeled off with a small parang expertly by Jelia the granddaughter in law.

Only a small "heart is left"

Here you are! A large organic palm yields only a small basin of palm heart..enough for about 20 people or roughly a day's food supply.

A simple long house soup can be prepared from this. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add onions and ginger and some ikan bilis. When the water has been boiling for sometime throw in the palm shoots. When the palm shoots are soft and the full aroma of the soup fills the kitchen add salt and pepper. No oil is necessary for this dish.

You can apply this method of cooking for any vegetables you have in town.

But eating pantu palm heart soup is really really superb and especially if you remember how hard it is to prepare the dish.


Ah Ngao said...

there's a lot for sale every weekend at our local Sunday market at Satok in Kuching.cook with coconut santan is the best ,right? the Chinese sinsei says ,if taken often may increase one's uric acid,wonder if true or not.i think it's full of fibre and should be good for lowering cholesterol

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ah Ngao
It is nice to be able to buy upah pantu every Sunday...Naturally the Chinese Sinsei would say this because he thinks this is too cooling. I am not sure about the uric acid though. No scientists have written about the side effects of eating this palm shoot...may be one should not add too much santan which will increase the cholesterol...

I just boil it with some ingredients like ikan bilis or a bit of chicken bones.


Jason said...

Some nice writings of the local upa pantu you have here. Prepare the upa with some dried fish (salai) will be very nice. Never thought that getting the upa from the jungle is a very tough job. Any other kind of upa that you like bside the pantu.

Ann said...

My Cantonese saying, KUNG FU more than rice, aka so much work, and so little yield. Is it a delicacy that you have it only on festive days?

Looks like bamboo shoot and should be very healthy since you don't put any oil.

When my Burmese friend friend harvest my banana stem, the process is similar except it needs less KUNG FU as the banana stem has no prickly stems.

When I was up in the Mulu mountains, the guide tells that the prickly ratton can be eaten.

My sis Margaret knows a lot about Sarawak plants, she runs courses.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Jason
Thanks for visiting. It is hard for my relatives to get salai ikan (many of these in Bintulu and Kuching I know).

I like all kinds of upa...I heard upa nibong is very nice too. We usually get upa sawit (readily available in Miri). Sometimes friends give me upa kelapa which is just as nice if not better. Upa nenas is very nice...

And of course bamboo shoots of all types are nice especially the ones valued by the Foochows called Betong or Muk Dong. My grandmother down river grew several groves of them 40 years ago...now they are all gone.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Pantu is not so readily available in Miri. One of the best places to buy local food is Bintulu.

I am sure your sis Margaret is an authority on Sarawak plants. Must attend one of her talks in the future...Kuching is such a good place to "gather knowledge".....
Mulu will have some of the best organic foods in the world.

sarawaklens said...

dont think i have ever seen this one for sale in the markets! interesting read. :)

sarawaklens said...

have you ever tried making a curry dish out of pantu? like coconut heart cooked in curries.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Sarawaklens...I have not been visiting my older postings for sometime.

Thanks for writing. Today I posted the question on Facebook ..Is the Pantu only found in Borneo? Perhaps it is not even found in First division of Sarawak!! Please enlighten me also.
Yes Pantu is delicious in curry (with chicken and the unmentionable meat).

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...