Recalling Forgotten Tastes: Of Illustrated Edible Plants, Food and Memories -- Syarifah Nadhirah

This amazing and unique book is an illustrative collection of edible plants, centered on environmental knowledge and traditional culinary practices by the Orang Asli communities in Peninsular Malaysia, primarily from the Semai and Temuan subgroups. 

The inspiration behind this book has been to archive the disappearing knowledge of wild foraging and using wild plants  in their diet. 

Immerse yourself in  the unfamiliar world of indigenous plants and trees that are oftentimes overlooked and allow yourself to be cradled into a tasteful journey of forest edibles, through spreads of colorful illustrations and conversations.

 In this book, the reader will come across spreads of illustrated foraged plants gathered from places such as Gombak, Kuala Langat and Jelebu. Guided by extraordinary teachers, mothers and headmen of different communities, each generously shared their know-hows of edible and non-edible plants from their backyard to the majestic forests. The birth of this collection stems from a deep interest in getting in touch with our immediate surroundings through plants and food, reigniting our primal senses in nontraditional settings. Find yourself in a whirl of unusual tastes and sights in their outdoor kitchens and under rambutan trees, uphill and down in the valleys of forest reserves.

Some tribes like a Semai tribe that Syarifah encountered in Pahang plant their own variety of rice with heirloom seeds passed down by their ancestors. The tribe refers to this as padi bukit (hill paddy). Its harvest is seasonal, and the rice has a very different taste and texture. The grains are cooked in daun bemban which gives it a nice aroma. Protein sources for Orang Asli also come from the forest around them—jungle fowl, wild boar, freshwater fish and saltwater fish (for tribes living along coastlines).

The author also noted that the Temuan tribe in Jelebu that she met were fond of spicy food, probably owing to their familiarity with Minangkabau cuisine. A lot of their food is interconnected with Malay cuisine, like the use of tempoyak and chili, which were introduced by groups who migrated to Peninsular Malaysia from around the region. There is even bamboo cake made with flour, water, palm sugar and roasted over flames for dessert—simple and fuss-free. There are a host of other plants, fungi, roots, shoots, fruits, plants and wild plants that are used by the various tribes in Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia for their cuisine, and there is much more to explore and savor.












Table of Contents: 

1. Nature as a Lifeline

2. Unlikely Ingredients for Lunch

3. Off the Map

4. Backyard Herbs and Remedies

5. Culinary of Foraged Plants

6. End Note



About the Author









Syarifah Nadhirah is a passionate designer with extensive experience in arts, print design, architecture and sustainability ( Instagram ) Thanks to her patience and creativity, we are now able to enjoy this beautiful book, a window in the way of co-living with Nature as practiced by Malay Orang Asli communities.

In this book, Syarifah  has revealed  some of little known  indigenous communities’ ways to interact with wild Nature as well as notes on their food and survival skills.

 Here is the link to a very interesting interview  with Syarifah Nadhirah about her creative journey, the story of her discovery of Orang Asli knowledge of wild edible plants, her aspirations and ongoing projects.

In continuation of this research, Nadhirah continues further ecological discoveries in her ongoing project, Sights and Sounds. Click to read more about her new work here . 


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