Cooking with Leafy Midin (Fiddlehead Fern)

Stir-fried Midin with Garlic and Shallots

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.

Spreading Out

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)

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!).

frying garlic and shallots in the wok

3. Toss in Midin and stir around for 30 seconds.

stir-frying midin with garlic and shallots

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

Stir-fried midin with garlic and shallots


Cheers, Annie

This post was entered into the Weekend Herb Blogging #199 roundup, administered by Haalo and hosted this week by Chris from Mele Cotte

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!

10 thoughts on “Cooking with Leafy Midin (Fiddlehead Fern)”

  1. >Hey you two, long time no comment. That Midin looks good, as you know, fresh fern tips are a rarity here. That looks so good. Oh, Nate, you are part of a trio that inspired me to start a blog, FYI.

  2. >Hi Annie,
    This midin can also be cooked with garlic, ginger, chillie chopped finely then add in our local red glutinous rice wine. Next time, try to get the ones without the leaves.

  3. >Delicious! I'm a fan of fern leaves too. You're lucky to find them easily in your hometown. I have to wait for Pasar Tani or Pasar Malam and it's not guaranty that the seller will have them 🙁

  4. >bah bah bah …. I requested my neighbour who is malasian asked her to do this for me. She said I am goin there when I return from Malasia will bring the ingredients or will get the exact information then we can make it here ….. now i have to be on " COUNT " LMAO ….

  5. >@all – thanks for your comments!

    @Bob – pleased to see you again! I love the content on your blog. Keep it up!

    @Kalyn – If you can find fiddlehead fern in SLC, try it out!

    @Carolyn – I've no idea, since I haven't had fiddle head ferns in the Bay Area before.

    @delia – local red wine, huh? What's it called? (Oh, and stay tuned for the recipe for the leaf-less midin!)

    @pixen – I think you can find paku in West Malaysia, but midin is a lot harder to come by there.

    @sara – hope you get to try it soon!

  6. Thank you so much for this recipe…I love Midin with garlic, and will try it with shallots too!! Delicimo! 😉

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