I've had just enough time... to get used to bitter medicine
|Buah Keluak before processing - poisonous (left) and after processing - safe (right)|
There is a tall tree called Kepayang rising up to 60m or 180 feet in the mangrove swamp of South East Asia. It produced a large fruit called “the football fruit” as it looked and shaped like a football. Covered by a thick skin is the yellowish flesh containing large slightly flattened seeds called “Buah Keluak”. The seeds are highly poisonous and contain hydrogen cyanide. Ingested, the symptoms are general weakness, confusion, shortness of breath, dizziness and coma. High amount of ingestion can kill.
|The Nyonya Ayam Buah Keluak - a flavorful dish|
How did man know they can make it edible? The seeds must first be boiled, then buried in ash for as long as forty days. The modern way is alternate soaking, scrubbing and rinsing for days or even weeks after the initial boiling. The boiling and fermentation will release the water soluble hydrogen cyanide which is washed out. The seeds are used whole to produce the famous Nyonya* dish – Ayam Buah Keluak (Braised Chicken in Black Nut Curry). One can scooped out the black, creamy and oily content from the seed with a small spoon. It has a tar like appearance and consistency that has been described as having strong mushroom or truffle taste. In Indonesia, the kernels are grounded to make a thick gravy called rawon to produce a distinctive beef or chicken stew. Who would have thought that they can make this highly poisonous seeds safe for consumption? And to even make delicacies out of them?
|Scooping out the 'opium' or black tar out from the seed|
As I recalled the taste of the Buah Keluak, I reflected on my bitterness and how to turn it into a winning recipe of living. And how not to stay a poisonous seed toxic to others.
The little restaurant in Malacca where I had the black curry dish