Cempedak galorePosted: 7 August 2012
Cempedak galore, not really…
Earlier this year in January was cempedak (Melanau: paduk) season. We have an orchard located half an hour away where we planted many cempedak trees. This orchard has been left alone for a year then, the grass was growing tall and many kinds of fern sprouted wildly, which some we picked as food. This orchard was my late grandfather’s, now my uncle takes care of it. We used to go there quite frequently, despite the poor condition of the road. Our journey on a van to the orchard was easy until we have to get off the main road and get onto the poorly maintained road leading to the orchard. First we have to go through narrow cemented road that is infested with potholes and several very old bridges that looked like it could break anytime. The road was straight and so narrow that if there was another van coming from the opposite way, one would have to reverse all the way back to the main road if they are unlucky enough to encounter another car or van on the part of the road where the road shoulders were non-existent.
The picture shows the second part of the road: dirt road. I was exhausted from pushing the van with my brother, so I took this picture showing my brother and the van leaving me far ahead. That day, rain fell heavily and this was what happened to the dirt road: muddy and slushy. Since we had already made plans to go to the orchard that day and the cempedaks could go bad if not picked for too long, we went anyway, knowing full well what to expect. I also expected that the pushing will be more demanding after we loaded the van with cempedaks. We had to push the van several other times before we arrived at the destination.
Turned out my uncles and my brother had already came to the orchard days earlier to clear the way. Our orchard is one of many other orchards located in the area. Many of them were abandoned because the second generation of the orchard owners moved to city even before the first generation passed away because they have family and job in the city. As a third generation, I feel that someday our orchard will be abandoned too.
You can see that the ferns and bushes were cleared under the cempedak tree. How do we know if a cempedak is ready and can be picked? My mother said if there is no leaf on the stem, then it can be picked. As you can see, many of these cempedaks were not ready. Mainly, we picked the ones on the ground. You can also see ferns on the ground. As far as I know there are only three types of fern that can be consumed. Only two types can be found in this orchard called pakau bulan (literally, moon fern) and ram. It is a taboo for some people to eat ram, we are one of them. I don’t really believe in such thing but stayed away from it just to not offend my mother who sternly prohibits us from consuming it. According to her, it can cause some health problem. Strangely enough, she would cook it for my uncle. The taboo does not apply to him, she said, only me and my siblings.
This particular tree was very bountiful with cempedaks. There were actually more as I gazed upward. I remember this tree from way back when I was seven, when my uncle scolded my cousin and me for climbing it. Good old days.
We gathered the cempedaks at one spot so my mother could cut them open and pick the flesh. This reduced the weight of the fruit we had to carry in the van later when we returned home. The white stuff on the fruit skin was cempedak tree sap. It will not cause irritation to skin but it is very hard to wash off unless you use cooking oil to get rid of it off your fingers.
We also have this big bamboo tree in our orchard. This type of bamboo is called buluh lemang in Malay and is used in preparation of lemang. Lemang is glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk and cooked in banana leaves and bamboo. It is a delicacy that can only be found during Eid. In this part of Malaysia, we do not cook lemang for Eid, but we have kelupis. It is basically the same thing, but the preparation is more tedious. I should write another post just for kelupis alone.
This is the inside of a cempedak. The yellow flesh covering a seed has a very distinctive smell. The smell is sweet and very hard to get rid of once you touch it. If you consume too much cempedak, your pee will smell like them too🙂 There are three ways to enjoy cempedak.
One, just eat it right away.
Two, once the seeds are removed, the flesh is mixed some sugar and stirred in a wok on fire. Then it will be ground in a food processor until the strands of fiber of the flesh is no more. Next, it will be smoked in young nipah leaves until it turns dark brown. This is a way to preserve it because sometimes there are too much cempedak in a season. This smoked product is called pais paduk.
Three, the most popular to enjoy cempedak is to dip them in flour batter and deep-fry them. This is called cucur cempedak in Malay (Melanau: susor paduk). Cucur cempedak is perfect for afternoon tea, much like fried banana (pisang goreng). During its season, cucur cempedak can be found at any roadside stall and is very sought after by the fans.
The young cempedak can be cooked like young breadnut too, where it is treated more like a vegetable than fruit. You can read it here.
I took a lot more pictures than this, but my hard disk was corrupted and these are all I could salvage. It could really be cempedak photo galore *sigh*