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Official Magazine of the Nature Society (Singapore)
 
Live Off the Land
Jungle Camp Cook Sutari shares his tips

More about Sutari

When Sutari leads an expedition—or even if he's just one of the team members—he ends up as the cook. He likes to eat well, he likes to cook and he knows more about jungle plants and freshwater fish than most.

Of course we bring provisions he says, but we also try and make camp near Orang Asli (tribal peoples of peninsular Malaysia) settlements so as to supplement our tinned and dried foods with fresh fruit and vegetables that are brought from or bartered with them.

Cooking in Belum

The Orang Asli practice shifting cultivation and even if they have moved on, campers would still be able to forage and find tapioca, sweet potato and jackfruit in the clearings they had made in the forest.

If there is no settlement nearby, Sutari is undeterred. He well remembers the jungle survival skills he had learned when he was just 19, before he went into the army where he was an NCO combat engineer.

Strange as it may seem, Sutari learned how to survive in the tropical jungle from the 'Kiwis' - New Zealand's Far East Army personnel who were attached to the YMCA in Orchard Road then. They taught him what to look for, what's edible and how to prepare some of the jungle plants.

So, here Sutari, Camp Chef, shares his secrets.

In the Jungle
Watch monkeys and birds - what they eat, we can eat.
Strange fruit or berry? Make sure it's NOT bright. Most bright fruits are poisonous. Unsure? Taste first. Take a small bite, eat a little bit and wait for five hours. If still alive and well, go for it. Non toxic fruit/berry must be both sweet AND sour. If it's only sweet or bitter it is not edible.
Great jungle foods include bamboo shoots (easiest to find, but watch for itchy hairs), nectar from wild Ixora, the rattan fruit (looks like a berry with snakeskin, size of a marble), pengagga (looks like a shamrock leaf, nice in soups). Most fern shoots are edible after cooking.

Freshwater fish from forest streams, rivers. Use wild fruit in season as bait or raw tapioca to catch Sebarau, Lampam, Tapah (giant catfish), Kelesa (kim leng, emperor fish), Baung (catfish), kelah (giant carp), Kalui (similar to pomfret but much bigger).

Cultivated Foods
Tapioca: The young shoots (stem tips and only the three young leaves below tips) are toxic and they must be boiled and the water discarded. The boiled shoots can then be fried or cooked in curry. Roots boiled, steamed or baked are delicious.
Sweet Potatoes: stem tips, young leaves and roots (tubers) can be eaten raw but more delicious cooked.
Nangka (jackfruit): the whole unripe fruit can be cooked after skin is removed. Seeds of ripe fruit is delicious when boiled.
Green bananas: don't despair if bananas aren't ripe yet. Green bananas are delicious when peel is removed and fruit is cut thinly and fried.

To sample these indigenous Malay foods, go to Kandahar Street behind Sultan Mosque, Bussuroh Street and Jalan Pisang (all in the Arab Street area). Look for these food outlets called Sabar Menanti and Hajjah Maimunah.

Better still, says Sutari - 'Want to taste my cooking? join my jungle trips!'


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