March 25, 2011

Indigenous Melon or gourd? The Entimun

The Ibans of Sarawak have a fascinating vegetable which they can eat raw or cooked as a soup with dried fish. This entimun is grown whenever the Ibans start planting their pa or just in their home backyard. They also plant ensabi (a kind of small mustard green) and sweet corn. Thus in this kind of diversification of their agriculture they are actually perpetuating a very sensible and environmentally friendly life style. It is no wonder that many of the Ibans in the past were octogenarians because of this green diet.

By the way the word entimun can be shortened to the Malay word "timun" and the Hokkiens simply call it di bun. The Chinese call it a Kua (which is more a melon than a gourd). Gourd in Chinese is Bu. According to Wikipedia entimun is of the gourd family and is a cucumber or Cucumis sativus. It belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon. The cucumber is originally from India, and there are 3 main varieties of cucumber from which hundreds of different cultivars have emerged on the global market. I often wonder why the local entimum has not been commercialised for the global market. It is so good!

The entimun is a "savior" vegetable. When there is no time to do any cooking a few fruits are plucked from the vines and cut to bite slices and eaten with salt. That's a decent lunch for most farmers. At home one can do real justice by cooking this vegetable in many different creative ways. It is really up to your imagination!!

The entimun minus the seeds....

This is how an Iban will cut the entimun....for soup. Often the some of the slices are gone before the cook starts cooking.

I know many people miss the soup (Entimun and Tahai soup) when they go overseas. The sourish and yet sweet taste of this organic melon is just so exquisite and memorable!! It is a pretty soup too because of the lovely colour of the almost ripe entimun.


Ann said...

I will show you a Kiwi tibun my friend's uncle who grew on the beach. Organic. more than 12 inches long, and 2 and 1/2 inches diameter.

I haven't cut it because I suspect it would be quite old, then you come and make achar for me?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

When I come next year...we will make acar together!! It would be nice to see that timun /tibun garden....