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Capsicum chinense or annuum¹
Common name: N/A
Local name: Katokkon
Geographic distribution: South Sulawesi
Katokkon is the spiciest chili in Indonesia and grown in Toraja, South Sulawesi. It is prevalent in markets across the region and is harvested at any stage of maturation. Therefore, katokkon is sold in all colors — green, yellow, orange, red — often mixed together in one basket.
With a spiciness measured at 400.000–691.000 SHU (Scoville Heat Unit), it is comparable in heat and appearance to the scotch bonnet chili from the Caribbean. In 2017, the provincial government recognized katokkon as a distinctly South Sulawesian crop and initiated agriculture efforts to support its cultivation in the Torajan region.²
Common name: Glorybower
Local name: Leilem
Geographic distribution: North Sulawesi
The leilem tree grows elsewhere in Southeast Asia — Malaysia and Philippines — and Indonesia³ for ornamental purposes, but the young leaves are harvested for culinary and medicinal use⁴ only in North Sulawesi with ethnic Minahasans.
Leilem trees are not cultivated; they are more often found in home gardens and growing in the wild. Because the leaves contain active chemical compounds such as phenol, flavonoids, terpenoids and steroids, they lend a distinct flavor to Minahasan dishes such as Babi Leilem and Tinutuan. The cooked flavor is reminiscent to camphor.
Common name: Sago
Local name: Sagu
Geographic distribution: (native to) Sulawesi, Maluku, Papua
Indigenous to Indonesia, sagu was the prime source of starch consumption for locals in the area before rice was introduced. Papua is the largest producer of sagu in Indonesia, and Southeast Sulawesi second.⁵ Workers must wait until a sagu palm tree is 20 years old before harvesting, which is before or early during the final flowering stage when starch content is highest. A telltale sign is when the leaves begin to fray at the ends.
To extract the starch, workers remove the bark and shred the trunk. The pulp is then agitated with water to release the starch. When the water settles, the starch sinks to the bottom. After the waste water is released, the starch can be collected.
Workers also let a felled sagu palm tree lay on the ground for a few days before shredding, in order to let the palm weevil lay eggs in the trunk. They hatch in three days and the larvae feed on the sagu palm. Sagu larvae are considered a delicacy and can be eaten raw or fried.
Sagu starch is cooked into puddings, noodles, breads, and also used as a thickener. Two well-known Indonesian sagu dishes are Kapurung and Sinonggi. In both, sagu is cooked by pouring boiling water into a bowl containing the starch. As the water is poured in, the starch is stirred vigorously in order to emulsify with the liquid, and the paste becomes clear, a sign that the starch is cooked. Then with two thin sticks, the sagu is shaped into bite-size balls for serving.
Common name: N/A
Local name: Pangi, kluwak
Geographic distribution: Sulawesi, Java, Bali
Native to Indonesia, pangi is the tree that produces kluwak, a nut found inside a futbal-sized fruit. Kluwak, when fresh and white, contains cyanide and is poisonous.⁶ The extraction of cyanide is conducted multiple ways across the country and among different cultures.
Kluwak is no longer poisonous when the meat inside is completely black. The most common process for this, particularly in Java and Bali, is to ferment the nut underground for roughly one month. However, in Toraja, South Sulawesi, the meat is dried in the sun for three to four days until it becomes black and is then pounded into a fine powder.
In Toraja, the fruit itself is also consumed. There are two forms — the membrane on the perimeter of the fruit and the membrane covering the kluwak. Locals peel both off and dry them in the sun. Prior to cooking, they rehydrate it in water overnight.
There are many Indonesian dishes that use pangi and kluwak. In North Sulawesi, the leaves are utilized more so than the nut. The Minahasan Tinor Rasan is pork wrapped in daun pangi and stuffed inside a bamboo tube and roasted in fire. In Java, Rawon is a famous beef stew made with kluwak for its characteristic black broth. And in Toraja, Pa’piong uses the kluwak powder, as well as Pamarassan, which also incorporates the rehydrated kluwak fruit.
Common name: Miana/mayana
Local name: Bulu nangka
Geographic distribution: Southeast Asia
Bulu nangka is most commonly cultivated for ornamental purposes and due to the varietals within the species,⁷ many forms can be found from leaf coloration — bright reds, pinks, purples, greens — to texture — smooth or jagged edges.
The variety of bulu nangka growing in Toraja, South Sulawesi is a cuisine and medicinal staple. Its appearance — from dark green to dark purple with ragged edges, and reminiscent of Perilla frutescens (shiso) — is unassuming, growing alongside roads and in home gardens. Its flavor, due the presence of essential oils such as eugenol, carvacrol, and ethyl salicylate⁸, is a subtle blend of clove, nutmeg, oregano and wintergreen.
It is most commonly added to Pa’piong, a dish that consists of meat (water buffalo, pork, beef, chicken or fish), kluwak powder, chilies and shallots, and is stuffed into a bamboo tube and roasted.
⁶ Treub M (1896). “Sur la localisation, le transport, et le rôle de l’acide cyanhydrique dans le Pangium edule”. Ann Jardin Bot Buitenzorg. xiii: 1.
Asli Food Project would like to thank Dr. Wawan Sujarwo, Head of Scientific Information and Services at Bali Botanical Gardens at Indonesian Institute of Sciences, for his continued assistance in our botanical research.