Sunday, April 15, 2007

Food: Sarikei Buah Dabai and Kempaya

Sarikei Fruit Hawker 2007
Find the scoops that we used for bathing in the old days.
Source: Chie Lang

Dabai is one of many exotic fruits of Sarawak. It's commonly known as or-kana (black olive in Hokkien) but technically it's not an olive. The dabai tree can grow up to 21 metres high and its furry leaves are thin and its twigs are covered with golden down. A planting distance of 9 metres is recommended. You need to prune the young trees to produce more bushy growth.
Dabai trees are dioecious (ie have separate sexes) with male and female trees required for fruiting! Hmm...

Dabai 2007. RM$8-10 per kg

Dabai are white in colour when immature and turn black when ripe. They are oblong in shape like an olive and have thin, edible skin. The yellowish white flesh inside covers a three angled seed like a hidden diamond. Soak the dabai in hot water until they are soft. The flesh taste vaguely like avocado custard. You can dip it in soy sauce or salt before eating.

Crack open the seed and pop the kernel into your mouth. I'm not a fan of the flesh but I like the kernel. Are you a nut or a flesh person or both? It's an acquired taste. The fruit and the kernal have lots of calories with oils and proteins.

Buah Kempaya 2007

Then I found something that resembles the dabai. I think it's called buah kempaya. I have never tasted this fruit before. Does anyone know this dabai look alike? Another kana (olive)?


Lidasar said...

Is timely this or-kana appear, never seen them before outside S’wak hence never seen them for years now.

I beg to differ it taste like avocado, actually there is another fruit found in Sarikei that really taste like avocado. I don’t know the name but it is light green and turns pinkish when ripe, only than it is soft enough to be eaten. The size is like a ping pong but is flatter (like a wheel of cheese) with a top cap that removes easily when ripe. Similarly you need to do the same, soak in warm water with salt. Is more popular with the natives and I would say most Sarikian are actually ignorant that this fruit exist but I have eaten them, have never seen it elsewhere. If you like avocado you will like this fruit.

Kanga said...

Wow! or-kana time! As a previous farmer I have never had this tree in my farm. So thanks to Daniel for all the info. I found that the more I ate the more I like it! Its a bit on the creamy side (so may be we can describe it avocado-like). Careful when splitting the seed with the chopper. If misses, the seed goes side ways like a bullet!
There was once I bought the very big ones for relatives in Kuching. They were amazed by the size. So lucky for those in Sarikei who can buy them big!
Lidasar, is there such a fruit you described as taste like avocado in Sarikei?? When is the season for this fruit??

Lidasar said...

Hi Kanga, you got to believe me, let me enlighten you with another three food which most will never imagine that it is available locally in Sarikei.

Chinese chestnut scientific name Castanea mollissima is found in Sarikei too. The type they use to put inside the BakChang dumplings. I ever bought from the open morning market in front of Ah Kow restaurant and eaten them too. The size is very small as compare to the imported Chestnut from China but the taste is the same.

Local Barley is available in Sarikei too, people might think how Barley can grow in equatorial climate but I can say it taste better than the imported Barley.

Arrow roots can be grown in Sarikei too, I started taking the soup since young and we have them in our farm. Not many know what this is anyway but I guess the immigrants might have brought them when they came from China, I can’t confirm this.

Anonymous said...

I love buah dabai very much ... I think it's O-lam in Hokkien. Nice with kicap misxed with sugar.

Daniel Yiek said...

Every time you go into the sarawak native markets, you will find very exotic fruits..sometimes you will see some for the very first time. There'll be more postings on these exotic fruits once I figure out the names. ;)

"Lam" is Cantonese for olive, not Hokkien, isnt it? Hey, pls try to use a nickname when commenting

Kanga said...

Yes Lidasar,I have picked up 'Chinese chestnuts'in a fruit forest (naturally belong to Iban) near my farm. Be very watchful of the chestnut covers which are full of hundreds of needles! I found there were 2 chestnut varieties; one type is triangular in shape & can be eaten raw, the other is roundish and is bitter unless cooked or roasted. Both have covers full of needles.
Local barley? new to me. Must try the next time I find it.
Arrow root? you mean that very fibrous yet sweet with many segmented root and the plant looks a bit like ginger plant? If so, the root fibres always cought in between my teeth yet taste nice!
Here is a 'Lam' story: when I was young I once asked why there were two olives in the engagement gift? all the elders laughed! For non-cantonese, 'lam' rhymes with 'cuddle'. Do enjoy 'o-lams'!!

Daniel Yiek said...

November 25, 2008 12:14 PM

Commercialising Dabai As Sarawak's Speciality Fruit

By Caroline Jackson

KUCHING, Nov 25 (Bernama) -- To food connoisseurs in Sarawak, savouring the rich creamy and smooth texture of the Dabai with its slightly sour tinge, is like having an acquired taste.

Commonly known as the Sibu olive, the fruit is indigenous to Sarawak and found along the riverbanks in Sibu, Kapit and Sarikei divisions.

Due to Dabais potential as a specialty fruit, the Sarawak Agriculture Department is confident that the fruit could penetrate the overseas market after discovering a breakthrough in the method to prolong its shelf life.

Semongok Agricultural Research Centre fruit agronomist, Lau Cheng Youn said via a freezing technique, the highly perishable fruit is able to retain its freshness up to seven days and could last up to one year when kept in cold storage.

"We are also collaborating with the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in Serdang, Selangor to study the nutritional value of the local olive, which also has the potential to be exploited as a nutraceutical and functional food because of its high antioxidant properties and other value-added products," he told Bernama here.


He said through the ongoing research and development (R&D), the department is hoping to venture into the commercialisation of Dabai as a Sarawak specialty fruit, which could easily fetch between RM16-RM24 per kg in major cities like Kuching.

At present Dabai only costs half this price in Sibu and Kapit.

Known botanically as "Canarium odontophyllum Miq." Dabais popularity as an exotic and health fruit among the local populace has increased over the years with the department producing recipes for as pizza, fried rice, mixed vegetables, maki(dried seaweed roll), pickles as well as desserts and salad sauce based on the fruit.

Best eaten with a dash of salt or soya sauce and sugar after it has been soaked in warm water for about 10 minutes, the fruit has found the niche as a signature dish at many official functions held in restaurants and hotels particularly in the state's central region.


A nutcracker is handy to get the fruits edible seed, which is as tasty as fresh peanuts.

Lau said the department's breakthrough would make the seasonal fruit harvest, which is usually towards the year-end together with the durian season, available all year round for local consumption as well as for exports to the Peninsula, Brunei and Singapore.

"Because it is perishable, Dabai normally gets wrinkled and dry after two days but now we can buy it in big quantities from the locals and supply them to the markets during the off season," he said.

"I know some Sarawakians, who have air flown about 30-40 kg of Dabai to their friends in China and Korea," he said, adding that the department would continue its R&D for improved commercially-viable techniques to penetrate the overseas markets.

So far the research centre, which started germplasm collection and varietal selection work to identify Dabai trees that bear superior quality fruit in the last 1980s, had produced two superior clones, namely the Laja and Lulong, for commercial planting.

"It is an arduous task because vegetative propagation of the Dabai tree is difficult. It involved many challenging trips to farms in the interior areas where the fruit is cultivated," he said.

The clones begin to bear fruit five years after cultivation, with the initial yield of about 10 kg per tree. This gradually increased to 80-100 kg per tree after the tree reaches 10 years old.

Recently, visitors to the Sarawak AgroFest 2008 held at the State Indoor Stadium were able to savour some of the Dabai on display at a booth put up by the department.


ongzi said...

buah ca'na is Canarium odontophyllum.

it is certainly not an olive.
but olive is also not a 橄榄。
橄榄refers to the fruits of Burseraceae family, ie ca'na ( Canarium odontophyllum )

while olive is Olea europaea of family Oleaceae.

when duno who translate olive to mandarin, they wrongly used 橄榄.
橄榄 supposely refers to the fruit of ca'na ... long before western olive reach asian.

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