SARAWAKiana: Buah Kundur and Chicken Soup

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The Buah Kundur or Buah Ensaya (named after the Bisaya ethnic group) is easily grown in any longhouse garden. Each vine can produce at least 8 or 9 fruits. Some growing on very rich soils have known to produce even 20 fruits of very respectable sizes like 3 to 4 kilos. Some vines have known to produce fruits of more than 6 kilos. Vines and root vegetables are beloved by the Indigenous people of Sarawak. Besides the Winter Melon can last a long time after being harvested without refrigeration and often friends and relatives are given them as gifts after visiting. Hence their popularity as an ulu vegetable. Today slices of winter melons are sold in open markets, and not whole fruits.

The Ibans in particular love Buah Kundur.

In any longhouse a quick dish could be cooked over a wood fire in no time. The vegetable can be stir fried or boiled as soup (the normal method) and it can go with pork, ikan bilis, chicken, wild boar or just any game.

It is good for VIPS as well as for any strangers who happen to drop by the longhouse. Any respectable Iban longhouse dweller would never allow a stranger to leave his or her home without a simple meal.

According to a long time Iban longhouse chief, he related to the writer some time ago, “I am proud to say that as a Christian Iban, my longhouse people and myself would always ask a stranger the first question of ‘Have you eaten”’. After that welcoming remark, we will proceed to the living room or dining area and whatever food we have, we will serve. This is our way of showing our respect to strangers who have come to our longhouse. It is very much like ‘Peace,brother. We welcome you in our simple ways.”

By Changyi, Grace Methodist Church, Miri

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