You’ve heard of Spam fried rice before…but olive fried rice? Well, not really olives but buah dabai – the indigenous “Sibu Olive”. Dabai is grown exclusively on the island of Borneo, in the Rajang River basin of central Sarawak, from the interior areas of Kapit all the way out to Sibu and Sarikei on the coast. It’s one of the unique foods of Sarawak.
Love at First Bite
We first encountered dabai in Kuching, when we took visiting food blogger Nick of Good Food in Mexico City and partner Jim to the Satok Sunday Market. After touring the market in the afternoon, we sat down at the open air food court to have dinner. One vendor showed us a picture menu of his dishes. We asked about this dish called “Nasi Goreng Dabai”. The vendor said that he was reluctant to offer it, because he wasn’t sure we’d like it.
We asked him what it tasted like. He went and brought us a sample to taste, and we all loved it. At that point all of us said, “Let’s get it!”
We all shared that plate when it arrived. It was good! Salty and mysteriously satisfying. Not a grain of rice was left on the plate.
Seen in Serian
The next time we found dabai was at the Serian Market where we had gone to check out the many fruits on sale there. It must have been dabai season at the time, as many stalls were selling the fruit.
Buah Dabai – Sibu Olive
The dabai fruit is slightly bigger than a kalamata olive, with a thin, bluish-black skin. Inside, the yellow flesh surrounds a large seed pit. You can’t eat dabai raw – you have to prepare it, normally by soaking the fruit in just-boiled water for 10 minutes to soften the flesh.
The dabai flesh has a creamy texture and its taste is similar to avocado. Sarawakians love to eat this fruit with a little soy sauce or salt and sugar. And once they get going, it’s nearly impossible to stop eating before the fruit is all gone!
The problem with dabai, though, is it is highly perishable. They don’t last very long after harvesting. Also they don’t “travel well” meaning most people from West Malaysia won’t get to see these fruit in their markets. During the height of dabai season, a lot of unsold fruit goes to waste. However, thanks to interest in promoting the dabai fruit, research is being done to improve its shelf life.
Dabai fruit in season
Reunited at the Rainforest
Recently, we attended the 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival here in Kuching. Besides all the various musical workshops, the Festival also had a handicrafts showcase as well as a “village market” where one could buy locally made products. Here at the village market, we happened upon a vendor who was selling products made with dabai, such as dabai layer cake, dabai soap, dabai cookies, dabai mayonnaise, and dabai paste.
Excited, we purchased a jar of the dabai paste. We knew exactly what we were going to make with it.
Nasi Goreng Dabai Recipe
Prep time: 5 minutes; Cook time: 15 minutes
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 kg cooked, day-old rice
200 g dabai paste
15 g dried anchovies
15 g dried shrimp (we used this excellent dried smoked shrimp from Mukah)
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Dried Anchovies and Shrimp, Dabai Paste
If you like, you can top the rice with a fried egg and serve it with a nice spicy sambal to kick up the heat. Enjoy!
I am entering this post in the “Merdeka Open House 2011: Makan Through Malaysia” roundup, hosted by PS from Babe in the City – KL food blog. Watch Babe’s blog for the unveiling of the roundup on August 31!
More articles about dabai:
Sibu Olive in High Demand – The Star
Commercializing Dabai as Sarawak’s Specialty Fruit – Bintulu.org
Dabai Fruit – MySarawak’s Travelogue
Dabai, the Sarawak Olive – Bin Gregory Productions
Dabai Fruit – Bernardcometh Revelations