Long the secret of the Semai, the buah kulim is an unprepossessing fruit that can be found deep in the jungle.
But as chef and restaurateur Nurilkarim Razha discovers in R.AGE documentary The Local Kitchen, the buah kulim’s hard shell protects an amazing secret.
“It smells like truffles and tastes an explosion of garlic and mushrooms!” enthused Nuril. “I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before.
“It’s a great alternative to garlic, especially since garlic isn’t even native to Malaysia and has to be imported.”
In recent years, buah kulim has featured on the Internet, but rarely in recipes.
Instead, they’re being used for its medicinal properties, touted as curing everything from diabetes to high blood pressure.
While these benefits have yet to be confirmed, what the Semai people do know is that it’s a delicious addition to their cuisine.
That’s what chef Nuril explores in the latest episode of The Local Kitchen, where he whips up an asam pedas yam dish accompanied by a warm jungle herb salad featuring another jungle secret ingredient, the gingery kemomok leaf.
The asam pedas, a favourite among the Semai, features both buah kulim and wild yam harvested from the jungle, and Nuril stayed true to the recipe.
The warm jungle salad, however, gave Nuril a lot more scope for imagination, and his culinary flair rose to the occasion.
Cooked the orang asli way – in bamboo – it is a medley of jungle vegetables, including kemomok, mixed with fish.
Tijah Yok Chopil, 49, who works to promote her people’s culture, is hopeful that sharing the Semai people’s culinary secrets would help preserve their heritage.
“Cooking in bamboo, for example. It’s not a Malay thing, it’s an orang asli method,” she said.
“Hopefully, The Local Kitchen will help raise awareness of our culture, and people won’t be able to claim our ingredients and methods as their own.”