The Bungkang tree is found in the wild jungles of Sarawak. However over the last fifty or so years the Ibans have started to grow them in their backyard. This is the real "green" aji-no-moto tree. The leaves can be dried in the sun and kept in your kitchen for a long time. You can buy packets of them at 1 ringgit only in the tamu.
The leaves are good for flavouring steamed or boiled fish and meat and are especially needed to enhance Iban styled preserved meat or kasam.
A few years ago I was given a small plant by an uncle from Niah and now it is a tall tree reaching almost 8 metres. I have enjoyed using the leaves for cooking ...They are flavourful like bay leaves or kaffir leaves (but with soup they give an excellent Sarawak flavour).
However it is the morning birds which I enjoy when the tree starts to fruit. The fruits are red in colour. It has been flowering the last two weeks and soon I shall be watching the reddening of the fruits.....
In the meantime enjoy the flowers!!
Most of the Iban cooks I know believe that without the Daun Bungkang chicken or fish cooked in the bamboo would not be the "real pansuh". I agree with them too. There is something magical in the flavour provided by just two or three leaves of this wonderful tree.
Indeed daun bungkang is a good substitute for Vitsin or a-n-m ..perhaps this is also the age old beauty secret of old Iban mothers who have wonderful luscious hair which reaches to the waist!!
Watch out for photos of the red seeds soon in this blog.