Stir-fried Midin with Garlic and Shallots
Midin, not to be confused with Paku, is a local fern that, according to my Sarawakian friends, is only found in Sarawak (but that I have not yet verified for sure). When we first got to Kuching, we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner and we had our first taste of Paku. It was delicious! But my friend said, “If you like this, you really have to try Midin, it is much tastier.” She then proceeded to buy us a bunch the next time we saw them.
I took home that bunch and put it in the fridge to cook the next day (ferns are best cooked the day it is bought but if you cannot, it will keep an extra day but it won’t taste as good). Never having cooked with any type of fern, I had asked some questions before leaving my friends the day before. Armed with some idea of how to cook them, I set to work on them the next day.
Putting them into a bowl, I noticed that this bunch had unfurled their tight heads into more leafy fronds. I wasn’t sure if this happened overnight or if they were bought like this. Later, when I bought my second bunch from the market, I found that they sold them both (already leafy and tightly coiled without extraneous leaves).
If you think of them like asparagus, they have a breaking point on the stalk; anything past that breaking point is too fibrous to eat. I pinched every stalk somewhere 2-3 inches down from the top (found out later that I was too conservative and could have pinched them a little further down) and I didn’t pinch off all the leaves (which I also found out later that I could have…oh well, live and learn). What I had left was a very small bowl of Midin.
Leafy Midin (Fiddlehead Fern)
Simplicity Works Well
Since we are not quite settled in yet, my kitchen pantry is not completely stocked. I had very basic ingredients to work with. I didn’t even have chillies or belacan so any of those types of stir-fries were out for the moment. But I did have garlic and shallots (two very essential ingredients to Malaysian cooking) and I decided to just do a simple stir-fry using just that.
And guess what? Sometimes an ingredient is so delicious that simplicity works well. The midin was wonderful—crunchy, vegetal, sweet, fresh! My daughter who is normally reluctant to eat much of anything much less vegetables, pronounced it “yummy” and proceeded to eat half the plate herself.
I’ve since cooked the tight heads with belacan and it’s good that way too. And, I’ve eaten it as a salad at a restaurant which cooked it “Thai” style which I will soon try to replicate. I guess you will be seeing more posts of Midin. I know many of you readers won’t get a chance to cook with it especially if it’s really true that it only grows here but I can’t help but sing its praises. If you get tired of reading about it without being able to taste it, you know we would welcome you to visit us here in Kuching!
Stir-fried Midin with garlic and shallots
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4-5 small shallots, rough chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 bunch of leafy Midin, washed and peeled at breaking point—about 3-4 inches from top
salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
1. Heat oil in wok on medium heat.
2. Toss in shallots and garlic. Stir-fry on med-high heat until shallots and garlic start to smell really fragrant and are beginning to lightly brown (don’t let them get burnt!).
3. Toss in Midin and stir around for 30 seconds.
4. Add salt to taste. Stir-fry for another minute or so.
Plate up and eat with rice.
Stir-Fried Midin with Garlic and Shallots
PS: have I also mentioned that I’m enjoying cooking with a wok over a real gas fire (no more electric stovetops for me for a while)! Yay!