Midin-Belacan: A Taste of the Borneo Rainforest

You are currently viewing Midin-Belacan: A Taste of the Borneo Rainforest

Nestled deep within the lush rainforests of Borneo, an exotic delicacy has been a staple in the diets of local Sarawakians for generations. Midin, a wild fern that thrives in the shadows of towering dipterocarp trees, is not just a plant but a symbol of the rich biodiversity of the region.

When stir-fried with the pungent, umami-rich belacan (shrimp paste), it transforms into a dish that captures the essence of the wilderness: Midin-belacan. This traditional Sarawakian dish is a confluence of texture, taste, and tradition, and its high time food enthusiasts around the world discovered its unique appeal.

The Wild Crunch of Midin

Midin is no ordinary vegetable; it is a wild fern that thrives in the shadows of Sarawak’s dense rainforests. Resilient, unfarmed, and harvested by hand, midin epitomises the term ‘wild-crafted food’.Known scientifically as ‘Stenochlaena palustris’, Its tender fronds, curled like fiddleheads, possess a crisp texture and a grassy, slightly nutty flavour, highly prized among the connoisseurs of local cuisine.

Belacan, on the other hand, is a robust, pungent paste made from fermented shrimp, a cornerstone of Malaysian cooking. When these two quintessential ingredients from Sarawak are married together, the result is Midin-Belacan – a dish that captures the untamed spirit of the land.

The Art of Simplicity

Simplicity is the soul of Midin-Belacan’s allure. The preparation is straightforward yet demands finesse. The midin is first cleaned and trimmed, with care taken to preserve its natural coiled tips, which are considered the most delectable part. The fern is then blanched quickly in boiling water to awaken its vibrant green hue and to ensure it retains its signature crunch.

The magic happens in a hot wok, where sliced garlic and shallots are stir-fried until fragrant. The belacan is then added, releasing its rich aroma into the air, signalling the infusion of flavours about to occur. The midin joins this fragrant mix, tossed rapidly over high heat in a dance of sizzle and scent, absorbing the belacan’s savoury essence in every fibre. A dash of salt, a sprinkle of sugar, and a squeeze of calamansi juice – a local citrus – elevate the dish to new heights, creating a mosaic of flavours that are distinctly Sarawakian.

The dish’s versatility also allows for variations. Some cooks add a splash of rice wine for an extra layer of flavour, while others may throw in slivers of red bell pepper for a hint of sweetness and colour. Regardless of the rendition, Midin-Belacan remains true to its roots—simple ingredients creating extraordinary flavours.

The Cultural Tapestry of Midin-Belacan

To understand Midin-Belacan is to understand the cultural mosaic of Sarawak. It’s a dish that transcends ethnic boundaries, beloved by the Iban, the Bidayuh, the Chinese, and the Malays alike. It’s a common thread in the fabric of Sarawak’s society, a unifier at dinner tables, a staple in local ‘kopitiams’ (coffee shops), and a sought-after specialty in upscale restaurants.

A Nutritional Powerhouse

Midin is not just food; it’s nature’s medicine, served on a plate. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin A, potassium, and iron, making it not only a delight to the palate but also a boon to health-conscious diners. The high fibre content of the fern aids in digestion, while the antioxidants present in it contribute to overall well-being.

The Bottom Line

Embark on a culinary adventure with Midin-Belacan and taste the essence of Sarawak. It’s more than just a dish; it’s a journey through the heart of Borneo, a celebration of the biodiversity of the rainforest, and a loving homage to the land that gives it life. From the hands of the harvester to the wok of the chef, Midin-Belacan is Sarawak on a plate – untamed, nutritious, and absolutely unforgettable.

Article curated by Himavee Jayaweera.