Saturday, December 27, 2008

Little Pillow or Cempedak in Sarawak

Look what I found before Christmas but did not get to make!! Kek Lapis Cempedak recipe!! Well as I was working I just looked at the recipe and the nice photo....yes indeed there is a Kek Lapis Cempedak! And we ate the cempedak without turning it into a cake!

source :

This is how a little pillow)Foochow word for cempedak) look like as a fruit. It is about 20 inches long and 8 inches in diameter.

This is the whole pip (fruitlet) from inside the fruit and the Chinese spoon acts as the scale)

This is the fruit cut longitudinally. There are roughly 20 fruitlets within this cempedak. Another variety would have tinier fruitlets and the flesh would be softer and more chewy though. This type has very crunchy flesh and often can find its way to the dessert counters at even high end hotels.

A friend gave me this cempedak and I had toyed with the idea of making a layered cake for Christmas . But because time was running short and the fruit was getting a little too old we quickly ate it. Its scientific name is Artocarpus champeden and it is mainly found in Malaysia and especially in Sarawak. We get lots of these from our friends who have farms outside the town. The fruit is rather perishable so we have to eat them very quicly. However it is not wise to eat a lot of them as the Chinese consider it a very "heaty" fruit.

Its bigger cousin is the more well known jackfruit. And somehow cempedak does not have an English name. We Foochows call it Chien Tau Yian or Little Pillow as it really looks like a small pillow.

The fruit is sweet and sticky and has a strong odour when it is ripe. The original species is pale yellow to bright yellow but some hybrids today have orangey shades. However there are fewer fruits in the newer breeds.

When ripened the skin has blackish spots and the so soft that you can break it with your fingers. But we usually cut it length-wise into half.

Most chempedak is found growing wild although many local farmers do cultivate them in their farms especially the Ibans who own hillier land in the upper middle reaches or a river. The tree grows to 20 metres (m) in height. My grandmother had a few trees growing in her Sg. Maaw house and when we were young we enjoyed eating this fruit amongst all fruits which she grew. We therefore never had to buy any local fruits. We only had to buy durians and fruits like grapes and apples. Oh yes we had to buy Jaffa sunkist oranges.

The cempedak fruits are seasonal so sometime there can be an over supply which causes the fruits to be sold very cheaply. There may be two seasons of cempedak a year.

Many commercial farmers are trying to cultivate the hybrids of this fruit so that they could be in the mainstream export business.

The fruits have found new culinary interest. Sauces have been made from the fruit and chutneys of cempedak are quite popular. Many people like cempedak with their ice cream. Sometimes a good salad can be made from cempedak too. I usually slice the flesh off the seeds add to a thin sauce made from coconut milk. In order to reduce the strong aroma of the cempedak I will also add some longans and lycees. This is a nice icy cold dessert at the end of a small dinner.

In the rural areas the immature cempedak is cooked as a vegetable .

If cempedak is eaten as a snack it can be fried in batter. The seeds can be boiled in salt water/ We had lots of the seeds cooked in this way and unfortunately the next few days we would suffer from constipation.

Fried cempedak are often found sold in road side stalls in Malaysia.

I hope this lovely local fruit will find more popularity in the future.

sources :
1. David Chandlee, "Treefarm", El Arish, North Queensland 4855, AUSTRALIA
Phone: National 07 4068 5263, International +61 7 4068 5263
2. Wikipedia

4 memories:

Daniel Yiek said...

This is one of my fav fruits. Sometimes get buy in Johore. Not sure whether those are from Sarawak or locally farmed.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Hi hope you and your family had a good Christmas. I had a nice dinner with Ms. Chen and her uncle Freddy and families in Miri on Saturday. So we talked about Sarikei and Sibu. It is good to see another generation of kids growing in fine people!!

I think Johor has always has a good agricultural outlook and future. Cempedak must be locally grown. Hard to be sent from Sarawak if the flesh is to be kept maturelly and naturally sweet (if there is such a term)- just my opinion.

cupid113 said...


I had fried cempedak in batter while I was in kuching last week - yummy as the cempedak came from my brother, Satia's garden in the kampong.


I Am Sarawakiana said...

I am glad to hear news of Satia. I am sure his farm must be a great one as I know how hard he works. I love fried cempedak in batter.

My love to all.


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