This is Mersin my friend from Sg. Brit Marudi who is an oil and gas off shore personnel. An Iban can only be as happy as can be when he is able to obtain a highly valued pantu stump like this. This palm shoot stump costs more than RM 20 in the market but is free in the longhouse if it is part of the kebun planted by his grandfather. This stump is enough for more than 30 people. A huge Indian curry pot is usually used to cook pantu - plain boiling with chicken or pork with or without fu chuk. It is an excellent soup as the pantu is soft and sweet - almost like sweet potato in texture.
Pantu is a popular domesticated palm grown by Ibans all over Sarawak. In fact wherever you see the tall pantu palm you can be assured that there is an Iban settlement near it. It is a palm that can be grown on undulating hills or even in swampy soils.
Discovery Channel has featured the cooking of pantu in one of its programmes on Borneo.
According to an old uncle when the Foochows first came to settle in Sibu the Ibans taught them how to cook this popular food as soup or just boil it with some rice as porridge.In various Chinese documents the Ibans have helped the Foochows learn to eat various vegetables grown by the Ibans and also food found growing wild in the jungle like tapioca leaves and other shoots. It was only later when the Foochows began to grow their own vegetables successfully that they probably stopped eating the wild plants and fruits. My grandmother used to tell us that they often harvested the bamboo shoots from the jungle in Sg. Maaw. But most probably these bamboo shoots were not wild but have been planted by the Ibans more than 100 years ago. The Ibans and Foochows had during the pioneering days of Sibu exchanged vegetable seeds and learned from each other about market gardening. Today after 100 years or so it is hard to tell who started to grow cangkok manis for example!
Pantu can also be cooked in fish curry or stir fried with lots of dried prawns. My family actually loves it very much. It is organic and is definitely fertilizer free . Sometimes because of its high price we share one stump with two or three other families. We normally cook it when we have something to celebrate like a birthday or a graduation.
Many of my Foochow relatives who live near Ibans in Marudi and Bintangor claim that pantu is one of the dishes they love.