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.
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.