Travel Features > The Gastronome's Guide To Kuching

Jungle Fern

 

Crispy jungle fern has always been a popular dish in the villages and longhouses of rural Sarawak. Since time immemorial rural dwellers have regarded fern as a tasty and nutritious wild vegetable that is easy to collect (it even grows at the side of the road) or cheap in the local market. Today, the upcountry jungle favourite is also widely available in towns and cities where it is served in hawker stalls and upmarket restaurants.

The two most common types of fern available are Paku and Midin. Bunches of fern are sold in local markets for RM 1 a bundle or up to RM 3 a kilo. Fern is usually fried with shrimp paste (belachan) or anchovies (ikan bilis) to give a gourmet savoury dish of curled leaf stalks and young leaves. Jungle fern is very much a culinary dish of Borneo. It is sometimes served in West Malaysia but it is not widely available as it is in Sarawak. Small quantities of midin and paku have also been exported to Singapore to be served as delicacies in restaurants there.

Jungle fern's rise from rural staple to gourmet dish of urban dwellers occurred in the 1980's and was brought about by a number of factors: migration of greater numbers of Ibans, Orang Ulu, etc. to the cites; a growing trend towards a health conscious diet; and media exposure of the high pesticide content in commercially farmed vegetables.

Midin and Paku are widely available in restaurants and hawkers throughout Sarawak and no visit to Sarawak is complete without sampling a plateful of midin fried with shrimp paste.


Chinese Tea


Jungle Fern Cooked With Shrimp Paste


Ingredients

1 bundle of fern (paku or midin)
red chillies
chopped garlic
shrimp paste
dried prawn
cooking oil

Wash the ferns and discard the older stalks and leaves. Fry shrimp paste, dried prawns, garlic and chillies and then throw in the fern. Stir briefly and served immediately.

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