By Faye J. (16 years old)
I love to eat. The mere talk about food sets my stomach rumbling and my saliva dripping like a dog. More so, if the subject is about midin belacan. Midin is a jungle fern that grows abundantly in Sarawak’s lush green jungles. It was considered a poor peasant’s vegetable in the 70s but in the recent years, has become a delicacy for both rich and poor.
My family was very poor back then. Dad was a peon, toiling long hours under the scorching sun and the drenching rains just to put two daily meals on the table. We lived in a small village outside Kuching. Home was a small leaky shanty with the jungle as our backyard.
Poverty had us make do with midin day after day. Not only did I hate eating them, I had to accompany Mother to pluck the ferns in the backyard before sunrise. Back in those days, a parent’s command was law; forceful and shatterproof. I had no choice but to obey the lady commander-in-chief of the house.
Mother always stir fried the jungle ferns with chillies, garlic and shrimp paste otherwise known locally as belacan. The stench of belacan never failed to send me reeling. When everyone had gathered at the table, the lady boss delivered her usual ultimatum, “Eat up!” which literally meant we had to lick our plates clean. Neither a grain of rice nor a drop of soup should remain uneaten. Again, her mandate was indestructible. My only option was to wash down the yucky smelling ferns that actually resembled green earthworms with several glasses of water.
The year I turned 12, Mother decided that it was time for me to take over her position of chief cook catering to the hungry needs of eight. I would have preferred the post of commander-in-chief, bossing my siblings around. Well, luck was out , so there I was, pounding chillies and shrimp paste while my eyes watered and my hands burned. By the time I finished the simple enough task, I was like a drunken sailor rushing for a place to throw up. The fumes of belacan were that evocative. How could I not hate midin?
Years later, my childhood dislike for midin, turned out to be my passion. I never saw it coming. The very year I started college, Mother passed away. I was staying in the hostel and missed her dreadfully. I began to yearn for belacan midin and whenever that yearning arose, I would find a bunch of freshly plucked midin at my doorstep every morning. Bizarre, but true.
- Midin Masak Belacan (Sarawak Ethnic Cuisine)
- Jungle Fern (Midin) Stir Fry (Keep Learning Keep Smiling)