Sarawak is truly a land of the exotic. From its ethnically diverse people and so much culture to explore, to its array of unique food made from jungle harvests. Here we highlight more exotic offerings from the Land of the Hornbills – the wild fruits of Sarawak.
Brown, round and about the size of a cannonball, the Mangifera Pajang Kostermans or Asam Embang is a species of wild mango that thrives in the jungles of Borneo. Weighing up to over 800 grams, it is a seasonal fruit that only bears fruit twice a year between January and February as well as July and August. The flesh is sweet with a hint of tanginess but extremely fibrous. Click here more about Asam Embang
This wild starfruit (Baccaurea Angulata) grows wild mainly in the Second Division of Sarawak, but growing demand has led to its cultivation. It belongs to the same family as the tampoi and rambai, and turns dark red when ripe.
Perhaps the most famous of all wild fruits is the dabai (Canarium Odontophyllum), nicknamed black olive for its physical resemblance to the olive fruit. Soak it in boiling water and leave until it turns soft before the creamy, yellowish white flesh inside can be savoured. Dabai is mainly found in Kapit and Sibu. Click here more about Dabai
Litsea Garciae or engkala is a round fruit measuring 2.5 to 4.5cm in diameter and can be found throughout Sarawak. The green fruit turns pink when it’s ripe and the flesh is creamy and tastes like avocado. Pour hot water over the fruit and leave for a few minutes to soften before eating it.
It almost looks like the dabai but the keranji (Dialium Indum), found mostly in Kapit, Padawan and Lubok Antu, has a smoother skin with a thin purple-ish dark grey shell that is rather easy to break. The brown-orangey flesh inside is sweet and a tad sour – a perfect substitute to unhealthy store-bought snacks. The flesh is, however, a tad dry.
Cousin to the longan, the Mata Kucing (Euphoria Malaiense) is a favourite among the locals. The smooth skinned variety is sold widely at fruit stalls and in supermarkets. The sweet flesh is cloudy and translucent. The black seed beneath the flesh lends to the fruit a cat’s eye like appearance, hence it name Mata Kucing (cat’s eye).
The pulasan (Nephelium Mutabile Blume) resembles a rambutan but is not hairy like the latter. To eat the flesh inside, you will have to twist (“pulas” in Malay) to rip the skin off, hence the name pulasan. The flesh is juicy and not as sweet as the rambutan while the edible seed tastes like almond. Available in markets throughout Sarawak when in season.
Widely available throughout Sarawak, Scaly salak fruits are that of a short-stemmed palm species. There are two types of salak, namely the sweet and tangy salak (Salacca Zalacca), and the extremely sour Asam Paya (Zalacca Conferta), which is used to make sambal or asam soup.
Golden brown and mangosteen-like, the tampoi (Baccaurea Macrocarpa) grows in clusters on the trunk and branches of the tampoi tree. flesh is tangy and sweet, tasting almost like tangerine.
The Artocarpus Odoratissimus (terap) is related to cempedak and nangka (jackfruit) but milder in taste. In fact it’s closer in flavour to a banana – creamy and sweet. Unlike the other cempedak and nangka, the terap has soft spines covering its rind to deter animals from eating its delicious flesh inside. Available in some markets throughout Sarawak, although seasonal.
Wild red & orange durians
The lesser of the King of Fruits are not as popular with durian lovers due to their lack of flavour and creaminess. However, the red durian or Sukang (Durio Graveolens) and orange durian or Dalit (Durio Oxleyanus), found in the jungle of Lawas among other places, are still sought after for their uniquely coloured flesh. They are characterised by their long thorns that keep wild critters such as squirrels from eating their flesh.
Where to find them: Like many exotic foodstuff of Sarawak, these fruits can be found in most local markets among jungle produce and wild catches, mostly sold by native folks of Sarawak who bring these fruits all the way to the market from their villages. Some of these fruits are unfortunately seasonal so you won’t be able to find all of them at once.