Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Nut of Dabai

Dabai or botanically known as Canarium odontophyllum is an endemic (restricted in distribution) species of Canarium of the family Buseraceae found only in Borneo. It is known as black olive by the Sarawakian Chinese. It is a nutritious fruit and tastes something like avocado. The skin and flesh are edible after soaking in warm water. The fruit contains protein, fat and carbohydrate, thereby making it an ideal food.

There is also a species of Canarium grown in China for its flesh like dabai which is known as Chinese Olive.

In Sarawak, dabai comes from the Rejang and fruits twice per year.

The seeds were sometimes used for playing games in Sarawak in the past. When I was young, I always like to crack the hard kernel to obtain the nut inside to eat. It looks like almond but tastes like a cross between pistachio and macadamia nuts.

Besides dabai, other species of Canarium also produce edible nuts, known variously as Canarium nut, pili nut, kenari nut, Java almond or Galip and are traded commercially. Plantations of Canarium indicum exist and are among the most important nut-bearing trees in eastern Indonesia (Celebes, Irian Jaya, Moluccas) and Papua New Guinea as well as the SW Pacific while Canarium ovatum is cultivated for its nuts in the Philippines respectively. The nuts are sold either blanced or unblanchded.

Perhaps someone should come up with a truly unique Sarawakian desert: gelato with embawang flavour (Borneo mango -Mangifera panjang) garnished with dabai nuts. Also, the dabai nuts can be coated with caramelised sugar or honey and sold as exotic tidbits from the Rejang or Borneo.

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