Life certainly is a lot easier these days with all kinds of appliances and gadgets that one can use but of course, easier does not necessarily mean better. Many will attest to the fact that more often than not, things are much better if done the old-fashioned way but unfortunately, not many are willing to go through the chore and would rather take the easy way out and settle for less.
In the case of cooking, for instance, everyone will admit that it is so much easier and faster just to use a blender compared to pounding everything half dead using a lesung batu (mortar and pestle) even though they know that it will not taste as great. I guess I am old and I am old-fashioned so I would go pounding everything manually as and when the need arises.
The other day, my missus came home with some tapioca (casava) leaves…
…that she had plucked in some piece of vacant land behind her mother’s house. These are very easy to grow – sometimes, people, after harvesting the tubers, will just throw the rest of the plants somewhere and lo and behold! After some time, you will see them growing all by themselves like nobody’s business. Yes, these leaves are edible but they must not be eaten raw owing to the cyanide content. This is stated very clearly in this website but they also say that you may derive a number of health benefits from eating the leaves.
We call them daun bandong here and that is probably in the local Malay dialect or in Melanau for the Ibans would call them differently. The latter refer to them as daun jabang but those around Kanowit call them daun empasa but they’re all the one and the same thing. You can buy these leaves very easily at the jungle produce section of the Sibu Central Market at only RM1.00 for one big bundle. I do wish they would sell them in smaller bundles, maybe half that much at 50 sen each for usually, I would not cook all of it and would just throw the rest away. The ladies selling these leaves would sometimes pound them for you – they would do that while sitting there, waiting for someone to buy their stuff. Then, they would display what they have pounded in plates for sale. My missus would never buy those as she insists they’re not very clean – I would not think that is a problem as we could take it home and soak in water and rinse thoroughly before cooking but I have never bought the pounded leaves from them as there did not seem to be a lot in one plate and I would need to buy at least two or three and that might cost quite a bit.
My missus would use a blender but it would be a bit too fine and would not be as nice. I, on the other hand, would pound them, paying extra attention to this part of the leaves…
– the “veins” joining the leaves to the stalks. These are rather hard and would be difficult to chew and that would spoil your eating pleasure. That is why there are places where they cook this and sell but they do not pound (nor blend) the leaves and instead, they would just rub them (like how one would scrub one’s laundry, they say) and I do not really like eating them that way.
You will have to pound the leaves till they are quite crushed…
…but there is no need to do it as fine as when using a blender and that would ensure that you will have something to chew when eating them.
Once the leaves were done that day…
…I pounded the ginger (one whole chunk of it – if you want it to have a stronger ginger taste, then you can pound more) and I also got ready the other ingredients needed – a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and some chilies, sliced…
…plus one-third of an ikan bilis stock cube.
First, I fried the ikan bilis till golden brown and then pushed them aside to fry the pounded ginger…
…till brown as well. As you can see, I used quite a lot of oil – that would be necessary as the ginger and the leaves would absorb the oil but still, I would not use too much and would rather resort to using water instead. More about this later.
Oops!!! I had forgotten all about the serai (lemon grass)! Actually, I grow my own in my garden but it completely slipped my mind. When I shared the photograph of this dish on Facebook, somebody also suggested adding bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) petals. Of course, adding these, the fragrance would help enhance the taste and you can also add baby corn or sweet potatoes or pumpkin to it as well. There are people who would cook it with pork skin or kasam babi hutan (preserved wild boar) even and the soupy versions of the leaves are very nice too like what I did here. In fact, if you cook it with chicken and a lot of ginger, it would come across a bit like kacang ma, minus the wine.
Anyway, to get back to my cooking that day, in went the chilies…
…and the pounded leaves next…
…and after mixing everything together thoroughly…
…I added water, a little at a time, just enough to let it sizzle once in contact the hot wok, and kept repeating that till the leaves were sufficiently cooked. In the absence of a lot of oil, stir-frying it till cooked may be a bit difficult but too much water would make it soggy and it would not be very nice – neither here not there, not a soup and not fried dry either…so do remember to go slow with the water and use it sparingly. You can add salt and msg at this point but I think there was enough salt already in the ikan bilis so I just added a bit of the ikan bilis stock cube instead…and once it was done, I dished it out and served…
Needless to say, it was very nice…even without the serai. This website says that the leaves are bitter…but no, you will not feel it at all eating it cooked this way with the fragrance of the ginger and the saltiness and taste of the ikan bilis. Somebody asked me if it was like cangkuk manis/mani cai – well, the answer is no. The taste and texture are different, it does not have the sweetness…but it is nice in its own right. Comparing the two would be something like comparing say, kangkong and sweet potato leaves…or paku and midin. They are just…not the same, end of story.
This is the simplest version of the dish, cooked with minimal ingredients and except for the pounding part, it is very easy to come out with your own plus other than the fact that it tastes great, it is VERY cheap too…
One thing’s for sure, you will not be able to find it at a lot of eating places, even here in Sarawak, except perhaps at the ethnic stalls like the ones here or here…or those special restaurants here or here.
21 thoughts on “The old ways…”
ok, am gonna have this, plain version, tmrw nite… right in Jkt!… Nasi padang here i come…
Do they have that there? My parents’ Indon maid at one time kept saying how stupid they were – they had all these things but they never ate, just threw away…tapioca leaves, durian flower. She tried and loved them all!
Ahhhh…nasi padang’s my favourite! Where to find in KL and the kawasan2 sewaktu dengannya? I think there’s one at USJ Summit? There’s one in Kuching, I know…but my friend with me that day was not really into spicy stuff and besides, we were in another part of the city that day when we were there – opens only for lunch.
Hmmm… interesting, i thought they would just chop the leaves and cook as it is, never thought that you need to pound it! Thanks for sharing 😀
Some would just rub and bruise the leaves but I know some would cut thinly, in thin strips – may not be nice unless you use only the very young leaves or it may be hard and will take away the enjoyment of eating the leaves. My favourite is still to pound them.
I dont really fancy this veggie. Yup. Not many places or economy fast food cook this.
Hardly any, not even the Malay stalls. One here, sometimes…and they do not do it well – bought once, never again. You’ll have to go to the ethnic places.
I agree with you wholeheartedly on your views about the old ways! I often find myself missing the old ways of doing things. For example, it’s so rare that people cook from scratch anymore…packaging, packaging and more packaging, and sadly a good amount of the packaged foods have way too much sodium. Great post, thanks for sharing.
Exactly! The love and passion for cooking just aren’t there, anymore. These days, it’s all about shortcuts – the easy way out.
I’ve never eaten these leaves pounded like this.. Usually ‘ching chao’ with garlic or sometimes with ‘foo yue’.. Must be very nice and fragrant from your pictures, all the hard work and all..Oh you are right about the blender, hehe.. I would just just the blender.. Can’t pound anyway, coz I live in a condo, too noisy for the ppl downstairs 🙂
You have it there??? Hardly see any around here. Those that I had outside were at the ethnic restaurant and stalls – in Kuching and in Bintulu.
Not hard work lah, no need to use force one…but anyhow, I always put some pan-holders or dish cloth underneath just in case I crack the Italian tile floor…and it’s not really that noisy – there’s rhythm to it, music to the ears. Hehehehehe!!!! The screeching grinding sound from the blender is just as noisy, I’m sure.
I would stay clear of attempting this dish even if I can get my hands on the leaves. There are better ways to work out for me LOL!
Not much of a work out, unfortunately…not necessary to use much strength. Otherwise, I would have really strong arms already…like Popeye. 😀 If it’s tedious, a real chore, you would not see me doing it either, that’s for sure. Basically, I’m very lazy too…and would take shortcuts and settle for something not as nice if it’s a lot of hard work…like cooking curry from scratch, for instance.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any vege in pounded form…probably when I’m old and have no teeth!
One that immediately comes to mind would be the North Indian palak paneer with the pounded or blended spinach puree. Love it! Very nice. You had that before?
Yes, I’ve seen palak paneer before….and no, I’ve not had that before (becoz I wished not to). I’m not into mushy vegetables as I like mine with a crunch.
Ok, to each his own. I can’t say I liked the look the first time I tried – a cousin insisted that I tried and I did and I loved it! Been ordering it ever since everytime I see it on the menu…but I do think theirs is usually blended – too fine, kind of mushy-looking.
i remember my grandmother making sambal with pestles and mortars too, and it always tasted pure and delicious 🙂 mmmm, your leafy recipe looks so good, i think i could honestly finish the whole plate. nice pics, very appetising 🙂
Thanks. You gotta come over sometime and try these – very nice, exotic ethnic.
I have not eaten tapioca leaves done this way. As a matter of fact, I may not have eaten tapioca leaves before. The one I have had is sweet potato leaves. They are not the same, right?
Nope, not the same…but sweet potato leaves have lots of health benefits too. The old ones are hard though – maybe would be good cooked this way.
I use my mortar and pestle almost daily. It’s made of granite, solid and I’d hate to drop that on my foot since it’s heavy! It’s my favorite kitchen appliance. No electric needed, just your own energy.
Yes, you can see mine in the photos – it’s granite too.
Don’t think i tried in this way before…
I don’t think I tried it before but it’s worth to give it a try when got chance. The leaves are bitter and salty but we won’t feel it…wow, that’s nice though I don’t mind bitter food like bittergourd soup in JB. But then, the soup and the bittergourd also not bitter already after all the boiling.
The bitter gourd is not bitter, I think. If it is very bitter bitter gourd, sure the soup will be bitter and the vegetable too. But I don’t mind it if it’s bitter. Fine with it. These leaves – nope, I don’t feel any bitterness are all. Actually, people always say anything bitter is good for health.
That reminds of me of my aunt’s cooking. I have not eaten bandung leaves for a long, long time. 😦
Not sure if they have these in NZ but somebody in Australia said they have them there, AUD1.50 a bundle or something. Not expensive.
P.S. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. A warm welcome to you! Cheers!
A little too much work, but totally worth it. 🙂
Exactly! Couldn’t agree more.
That’s nice! I always like the idea with working with native greens but you can hardly find any in this concrete jungle and even if you can, you don’t know if it’s been sprayed with insecticide.
The food looks awesome as usual mate! 🙂
That’s one thing that I like about going for such ethnic stuff. You can be sure they’re 100% organic, none of those chemicals…plus they’re usually a lot cheaper than the rest.
You have the mortal pestle. My mom used to have one but when we shifted to new place. It was a mystery disappearance. Then my dad actually molded a new one for her using stainless steel. Now she has a stainless steel one.hahaha
Wowwwwww!!!! We can get them very easily here – can get HB to get you one when he comes back. But have to season first – sandy. Pound grated coconut on and on and on till smooth, no more sandy texture and then only you can use.
I have been TRYING to upgrade my Mortar & Pestle for a while now. I had one in my hand to purchase last week, even! Perhaps in the next week or two I will go back and actually BUY it lol!!!! Those leaves look amazing!
Opal has one and swears by it! I would rather use it anytime, instead of a blender.