Posted: 30 May 2011 09:38 AM PDT
By MOHAMAD BAKRI DARUS
This Malay delicacy is usually served at wedding feasts in Kedah.
NOT many people are familiar with gulai batang pisang, but whenever the dish is served at wedding feasts, it is often the first one to run out.
This Malay curry is made from the edible pith found in the trunk of a young banana palm and is a speciality in the north.
Often cooked with beef as well, the curry can be considered a "rare dish" and is hard to find in restaurants, particularly in urban areas.
Traditional: Gulai batang pisang(banana stem curry) is a rare dish that is served at Malay wedding feasts, and is more commonly eaten in villages than in urban areas.
Gulai batang pisang, together with other Malay traditional delicacies like gulai kawah, gulai nangka, gulai ikan talang masin, gulai rebung and kerabu pucuk paku, is a staple at wedding feasts held in Kedah.
"The present generation has not been exposed to this delicacy, but when they taste it, they really like it," said Hamid Mat, 70.
He decided to serve the banana stem curry to guests at a wedding feast held for his son, Mohamad Nizam and his bride Habibah Kassim, both 28, at Kampung Paya in Kodiang recently.
The banana stems for this traditional curry are usually found in the jungle. The pokok pisang hutan normally grows in hilly areas. Unlike other banana trees, the fruit of this plant is inedible as it contains a lot of seeds.
For gulai batang pisang, only young jungle banana trees can be used, as the pith in the stems is still soft. The banana tree is felled and its stem sliced open so that the pith can be harvested.
According to Hashim Awang, 73, the jungle banana tree does not need to be cultivated.
"We don't plant them, they grow by themselves. We simply go to the location where they grow in abundance and take as much (banana stem pith) as we want," he said.
When the kampung folk need to go to the jungle to harvest the palms, it is usually done gotong-royong style. Despite obstacles like crossing rivers and climbing hills, the trips are worthwhile as the villagers also find plants and herbs like rebung, pucuk paku and pokok tepus which can be eaten as ulam (traditional Malay salads).
"First, the beef is boiled until half-cooked and then the banana stem pith is added with other ingredients into the boiling pot. If this is done too early, the pith will be overcooked and will become too soft, and the curry will be mushy," said Samsudin Ismail, who supervised the team that cooked the food for the wedding feast held by Hamid. – Bernama
Source: The Star Malaysia Online.
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