September 12, 2014

Salted Mustard Greens (Ensabi)

Ensabi is a small variety of the green mustard which is grown in Sarawak. It is slightly more bitter than the sawi we buy in town. Today there is a longer variety of the indigenous ensabi called, Ensabi Cina, or Chinese ensabi. Its leaves are very long and the stalks much bigger.

The famous wasabi sauce  comes from the horseradish rhizome, but it has an uncanny similar taste to ensabi.



Besides being eaten as a stir fried fresh vegetables, it is often salted to be kept for while, and taken out when food runs out on rainy days or when vegetables cannot be planted during a drought which happens more and more often now in Sarawak. It has not made its debut on any restaurant menu yet.

The preserved ensabi is special to many families because it is a very skilled craft. Many housewives even try to keep their procedure a well kept secret. A few competitions have also be conducted over the last 10 years to keep the skill alive.

However some housewives do find the salting of the vegetable  a delight and make freshly preserved ensabi quickly within a few days.

Preserved ensabi is used as a soup enhancer, cooked with pork bones. It is used as part of steamed fish ensemble. And stir fried with minced pork, or just anchovies, it is very nice. Eaten as part of a salad, the preserved ensabi is a very welcome dish.

You can always experiment with this vegetable.

Steps in making salted ensabi:
1) cleans and wash the ensabi.
2) Dry and wilt the vegetables over night.
3) When adequately wilted, rub coarse salt into the vegetables to extract the last juices.
4) Place the vegetables in a clean glass bottle over night.
5) Add some cold cooked rice and mix again. The rice will ferment and give the ensabi a very appetising sourish taste.
6) The salted vegetables should be ready in four or five days' time. However, the longer you keep it the better.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very glad that you have written something on ensabi, The something you mentioned about ensabi having the same taste as wasabi was what I wanted to ask someone. Yes, both ensabi and wasabi are botanically related, thus expalin why they have similar taste. It am wondering why ensabi and wasabi rhyme, so similar in name too. Ensabi variety has only been known from Borneo, if I am not mistaken.

There is also the word umai in Japanese which mean delicious while we have Melanau raw fish called umai. Did the Japanese taught people in Birnei to eat raw fish? Maybe after a local saw a Japanese eating raw fish and then exclaimed 'umai' abd the local who saw it learn from him and started eating raw fish and named it umai?Possible?

Anonymous said...

By the way, mustard is also close to both wasabi and ensabi. They give a 'hot' sensation to the tonguelike chilly.

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Anonymous said...

Understand that ensabi are planted after harvesting of padi. Do you get it often or it is seasonal?

sintaicharles said...

I like the sourish taste of ensabi.

Ensurai said...

I too have thought that Wasabi is actually from the word En-sabi. Nowadays in supermarkets the vegetable is labelled Sabi Vegetable. And the Chinese call it Sa Bi Chai. Wasabi is however from horseradish, a root vegetable. I am not sure about Umai though. Perhaps my Melanau friends can enlighten us. You brought up very interesting points. Thanks.

Ensurai said...

I love mustard with good Siew Mai. Mustard is also from the seeds of the green mustard. Yew Chai.

Ensurai said...

Ensabi is usually planted before and during planting of padi, good as part of food when Iban farmers work on their farm.

Ensurai said...

Ensabi can be grown any time. Now with Kelapa Sawit being the major crop of the Ibnas less ensabi comes from their farms. Rather, the Chinese are planting them now.

Ensurai said...

It is more bitter than sour. The preserved ensabi is sourish.

Anonymous said...

Three of them belongs to the same family-ensabi, wasabi and mustard.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

have my own version of mustard green gai choi pickles.

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