In­gre­di­ent of the week: Ke­payang

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste -

THE ke­payang “fruit” or buah keluak is ac­tu­ally the seed of the ke­payang tree and has a rich his­tory. Used to make nasi ke­buli, a royal dish served to an­cient Pa­hang roy­alty, it now has a place in Malaysian dishes like the Per­anakan spe­cialty, asam pedas keluak.

Most ke­payang trees are found in Pa­hang, but the vil­lage most famed for ke­payang pro­duc­tion is Kam­pung Pagi in Pa­hang. Un­for­tu­nately, there’s only one tree left there.

“We used to have a lot of trees, but they died in the floods,” said vil­lage el­der Ab­dul Jamil.

While they have lost most of their trees, they still re­tain one pre­cious as­set: ke­payang trader Sar­i­fah Ami­nah, 65, who still works to har­vest, cure, and sell ke­payang fruits.

She’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant be­cause ke­payang fruits are tricky lit­tle things. The raw seed con­tains cyanide and is deadly poi­sonous. Lo­cals know that they could cause ill­ness, or what they term “mabuk”, or drunk­en­ness. If the vil­lagers’ chick­ens ac­ci­den­tally eat un­cured ke­payang, they die. That’s why Sar­i­fah’s skills are in­valu­able.

If prop­erly cured, how­ever, they’re culi­nary mir­a­cles. But ke­payang cur­ing – which in­volves boil­ing, im­mer­sion in ash and burial in the ground for an ex­tended pe­riod – is a dy­ing art, and un­less some­one steps up to do some­thing, Malaysia might soon have to wholly de­pend on the next big ke­payang ex­porter, In­done­sia.

“I’m one of the few peo­ple left who know how to pre­pare ke­payang prop­erly,” said Sar­i­fah. “The oth­ers are old, and the young only know how to eat ke­payang, not pre­pare it.”

It’s a wor­ry­ing thought. While Sar­i­fah has taken ef­forts to pass her knowl­edge down to her daugh­ter, not many oth­ers have done the same, and she wor­ries that even­tu­ally her beloved buah ke­payang will dis­ap­pear from Malaysia’s culi­nary her­itage.

“My grandma knew how to make nasi ke­buli; she would press oil out of the fruit and use it to pre­pare the rice,” she said. “I never learnt, and now the recipe is lost. I worry the same thing will hap­pen to ke­payang prepa­ra­tion.”

Food doc­u­men­tary The Lo­cal Kitchen is try­ing to re­vive in­ter­est in this gem of a seed, with the help of chef and restau­ra­teur Nurilka­rim Razha, who hosts the show. Nuril put his culi­nary skills to the test, and came up with a de­lec­ta­ble fried chicken recipe with a ce­mang side dish, which you can try right now!

Here’s the recipe:

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