Sunday, May 06, 2007

Food: Sarikei Midin Fern

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.

Sarikei Midin fern - Stirfried with anchovies

Sarikei Midin fern - Stirfried with red rice wine

Sarikei Midin fern - Stirfried with belacan
Source: Chen

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?


Kanga said...

This is a 'must-have' dish for me whenever I go back to Sarikei; at least eating it a few times and in a few cooking styles. Many visitors to Sarawak remembered this dish well. Others can only dream about it. During my early days in the farm I treat this plant as a weed! now I can only eat this dish once or twice in a year and dream of eating it other times.

Sim Y said...

One of my all time favourite.

Daniel Yiek said...

A 1968 photo of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce has been added to the post "Sarikei Chinese Chamber of Commerce" from our prolific contributor halamanku.

Anonymous said...

Woooo....the midin dish look beautiful, I feel like having them later for dinner. It one of my favorite dish. Try fry them with some chinese wine they taste wonderful too.. :)

nelson said...

my friends from west malaysia will be coming soon, and i will definitely bring them to try these exotic midin, paku etc.

Lidasar said...

Hey guys, I remember in our local Iban lingo we always call it Milin, never heard of it as Midin.

Daniel Yiek said...

That's true. Local dialects called it milin/bilin choy (vege in cantonese) or chai (Hokkien/Foochow). Midin is the English name for this fern.

BurungHelang said...

Yes, "mirin guok" (shown in the first picture) is my favourite Sarikeian vegetable dish.

Darren Tan said...

Is there anyway to bring Sarikei Midin fern out of West Malaysia and grow it at other countries?

Darren Tan said...

Sorry what i mean grow the Sarikei Midin fern at other countries from sarawak :P

Daniel Yiek said...

It should be possible if it's a tropical country. It grows wild anyway in sarawak

fuzy said...

I need to know. What's the real name of this fern vegetable. coz there's so many kind of fern sold in market.
could u help me?

Daniel Yiek said...

It's call Midin

Also read

Anonymous said...

thro the statement fr the website :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.

do you know the place in west malaysia where midin grow?
how do midin be exported to Sgapore becoz midin can't be kept long,after 2 days it will turn black..???

kineza88 said...

We eat a very similar fern here in Australia thanks to our Dyak mum :)

Nicole Sim said...

where did u get it from? ive been looking all over for it! care to share?

Daniel Yiek said...

Sarikei Central Market and also weekend markets all over Sarawak

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