I have seen this special 'buah' which means 'fruit' in malay many a time as a cooking ingredient and have always wondered how it will taste as everyone who have tasted it raved about it. After 62 years, i finally had the opportunity to make this curry when my friend, Agnes, who had just came back from Singapore, gave me a dozen. I had to agree that this Buah Keluak or Indonesian Black Nuts undeniably, ambrosia among Nonya dishes is an acquired taste. The taste is indescribable and has to be eaten to be believed
To the uninitiated, buah keluak is a black nut from Indonesia about the size of a misshapen golf ball. The surface is ridged with a smooth nut 'mouth' across the flattest part. A slit is made in this mouth through which one scrapes out the contents which have been variously described as 'opium' and soft tar'. . Good nuts, when cooked, should be richly black and oily.
To prepare Buah Keluak or Indonesian Black Nuts, wash and scrub throughly until the thin film of dried mud they come in is completely gone. A proper and crucial step in cleaning is desired otherwise the gravy will be not be good eats. Soak in a large pot of water over-night or for at least six hours. An even quicker method is to boil the keluak for 15 minutes, which, I'm told by friends, works just as well. Most recipes will suggest that the contents of the nut be dugged out, to be mashed and mix with egg whites for binding. An addition of ground pork/chicken or prawns can also be added and then this mixture is stuffed back into the nut shells. However, really authentic , according to Agnes, Buah Keluak is cooked with the insides of the nuts and are served neat, in all their bitter glory. The resulting curry is literally black, with a slight orangey sheen of oil that you will either love or hate. To me, it was love, thank you Agnes for giving me the chance to experience the buah keluak's glory. I was also told that if not properly prepared for cooking, the nut is toxic and since all my friends who tasted my dish are still around and kicking, i am glad i did not kill anyone.
30 buah keluak(i had only a dozen that's why my gravy is not black
3 lbs chicken pieces
1 1/4 lb pork ribs - cut into bite size
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
12 ozs garam assam paste (recipe is at bottom of page)
3 ozs tamarind saked in 6 fl ozs water, squeeze an strain
1 - 11/2 tsp salt
32 fl oz water
Soak nuts in cold water for at least 6 hrs or overnight.
Brush nuts t remove mud and sandy particles.
Crack where nut is smooth.
Marinate chicken pieces with 1 tsp salt and pepper for 1/2 hr.
Heat wok with a tsp of oil and brown chicken pieces.
Remove chicken pieces and add in more oil. Add in the garam assam paste and saute until fragrant.
Add the tamarind juice and bring contents to the boil.
Add in the pork ribs and saute well. When contents come to a boil ,reduce the heat to medium, cook the pork ribs for 1/2 hr covered.
Add the nuts and the browned chicken pieces. Continue to cook for another 1/2 hr, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked and pork ribs are fork tender.
Serve with white rice.
GARAM ASSAM PASTE
3 ozs sliced galangal
3 ozs sliced lemon grass
2 -3 ozs candlenut/buah keras
4 ozs shrimp paste/belacan
6 ozs fresh red chillies
12 ozs shallots
1/4 - 1/2 oz tumeric powder
1/4 oz chilly powder or 10 - 16 dried chillies, cut into small pieces, soaked in hot water until soft, drained(add this to A)
6 fl ozs cooking oil for frying
In the food processor, grind A into a fine paste, then add in the rest of the ingredients. Blend well.
If using the blender, put all the ingredients in including the oil and blend to very fine.
Pour blended ingredients into a microwable bowl and microwave on high for 5 minutes, stir and continue to cook on high until oil surfaces and paste is fragrant and almost dry.
Paste is ready for cooking but it has to be completely cooled before packing in airtight freezer containers.