Recalling Forgotten Tastes: Of Illustrated Edible Plants, Food and Memories is an illustrative collection of edible plants, centred on environmental knowledge and traditional culinary practices by the Orang Asli communities in Peninsular Malaysia, primarily from the Semai and Temuan subgroups. The foreground of the book is to archive the disappearing knowledge of wild foraging and implementation into their diet. Dive into 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 colourful 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 untraditional 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 chilli, 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 is 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 savour.