Sarikei Midin fern
Another thing that you can claim to be unique to Sarawak is the midin fern which grows wild in fresh water, peat swamps and secondary jungles. It has a curly frond. Rural folks first discovered this tasty delicacy before it crept into the urban cuisine. If you don't like to pluck it manually from the forests, it's available in the vegetables market with prices ranging from RM$1-2 per bundle, usually wrapped in a leaf.
Sarikei Midin fern - another variety.
There are several versions of the fern (see the 4 types in this blog or are they known by different names?). It's not the same as the poular pucuk paku-pakis (fiddlehead fern in Malay) of West Malaysia. Midin is rarely found in West Malaysia because it's highly perishable. It will turn black 2 days after harvest so Sarawak remains as the defacto place to savour this.
Sarikei Midin fern. Red-leaf variety.
Midin is a member of the Blechnaceae family and is botanically known as Stenochlaena palustris (Huh?!! Can you imagine asking for this in the vege market?). The frond tips, with or without open or expanded leaves are used as a vegetable. Fronds with very narrow modified leaves bearing the spores for dispersal are not usually eaten. The frond colour varies from light green to dark green or even different shades of red. Fertile fronds and the red colouring are produced in response to unfavourable environment changes like dry weather and haze.
Sarikei Midin fern. Fat & hairy version.
If you want to grow midin, read on. It can be propagated from the spores or vegetative parts such as the stems. Stem cuttings 25-30 cm long with 406 nodes and some leaves are collected from wild plants. The cuttings are inserted into small polybags 10 x 25 cm filled with top soil. About 2/3 of the length must be inside the soil. Polybags planted with cuttings are placed under 60-80% shade for 2-3 weeks after which they are gradually exposed to full sun. During this period watering must be done frequently. A few granules of fertiliser and a few spoonfulls of well rotted organic manure will be beneficial. After 3-4 months the cuttings will be ready for transplanting into the field.
I know you really don't want to grow midin. You just want to gobble up this delicious fern for its crunchy texture. The popular ways to stirfry midin are with
- a) ikan bilis (anchovies), onions and calamansi (small local lime)
- b) red rice wine and garlic
- c) sambal belacan (shrimp paste). The best!
From the wild, humble fronds that look like cursive question marks, Sarawak has arguably the #1 fern gourmet dish in the world. Any questions?