Tengkawang Oil, the Butter from Nature
During a traditional food festival in Lanjak in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, no preservative or artificial flavouring such as MSG was used in any of the dishes. This also includes the oil they used for cooking which was substituted with tengkawang oil.
Known to many as the butter from nature or green butter, tengkawang oil is extracted from the fruit of tengkawang trees.
Tengkawang fruit or the Borneo shallow nut is a native fruit species that can be found in the jungles of Borneo.
However, West Kalimantan, Indonesia is particularly known for its tengkawang oil as it is still widely used by the locals.
In both Sarawak and Kalimantan, tengkawang fruits are collected by the locals where it will then be processed into oil.
While tengkawang can be found in the jungle, there are some people who actually grow the trees at their farm.
Tengkawang is known as “engkabang” among the Iban people, and “kakawang” among the Embaloh people.
The tree will usually bear fruit once every five years, although there are places in Kalimantan that bear fruits once a year.
In Lanjak, the locals will usually collect tengkawang fruit sometime around February.
According to the locals, the trees will usually bear fruits at the beginning of the year during the rainy season. The trees are typically found near water sources such as the river.
Usually locals will collect and process it for their own household consumption, although now most have began to commercialize the oil.
However, when picking these fruits, those that have fallen off the tree and started sprouting should not be used.
This is because when processed, they will taste differently. Apart from that, the oil will also be green instead of the usual bright yellow hue.
To process the fruits into oil, the fruits are first separated from the shell and dried under the sun.
This process might take up to a few days to a week before they are ground into powder.
After that, the powder is then placed in a steamer filled with water for about an hour.
However, the time may vary, depending on the amount of tengkawang powder being steamed at a time.
The lesser the amount of tengkawang powder being steamed at a time, the less time is spent steaming it.
Then, after some time, the steamed powder is taken out to be pressed by a manual oil press machine expeller to produce a glossy, pale yellow liquid.
Before the machine, the locals would extract the oil using a wooden device called an “apit”.
The dregs or the remains of the tengkawang powder is not discarded but used as fodder and fertilizer.
At room temperature, it will take about three days for the tengkawang oil to solidify, although it will be much quicker using a refrigerator.
Once solidified, tengkawang oil can be stored in containers and be kept for up to more than a year.
However, according to locals, the oil can also be stored in bamboo to ensure a longer storage period.
Local people will usually use tengkawang oil for cooking and baking.
So instead of the usual cooking vegetable or palm oil that we use for cooking, you might consider substituting it with tengkawang oil. You can even substitute butter with tengkawang oil when baking.
On warm rice, the locals will usually press tengkawang to give the rice an aromatic nutty flavour and scent.
It is said that tengkawang oil is preferred over liquid oil when cooking in the jungle as it is more convenient.
Unlike typical oil, tengkawang oil is easier to carry and you would not have to worry about it spilling.
Apart from that, tengkawang oil has also been used in cosmetic products such as lipstick and make up foundation due to it moisturising properties. It has also been used to make chocolate, bar soap, medicine, cream, lotion, hair conditioner, sunscreen and as a margarine substitute.