Working in the remote forest sometimes takes me and my friend to the lack of excitement, facing the same difficult transects to the same menu of food everyday.
One day, in the Lambusango forest of Buton, in Southeast Sulawesi, we came up with a new dish, ‘arem-arem’ or stuffed rice rolls. The recipe itself is not a problem. You just need to cook rice with coconut milk and stuffed with ground beef or vegetables, wrapped it individually and then steam it (check this recipe). Normally, this recipe needs banana leaf to wrap the stuffed rice but of course banana plants are impossible to find in a primary forest. It’s a cultivated plant. So, what did we do?
We actually took this cooking thing very seriously. Food wrapping is common in Indonesian food. Banana leaves is the most popular as the plants are easily grow. The young coconut leaves are also frequently used. But in some areas close to the forest, people use different plants. In North Sulawesi, people use a round-leaf fountain palm (Livistona rotundifolia). We did see this kind of palms in Buton but very rarely. The good thing was we had very good guides who know about the forest more than we do and we worked in the Sulawesi forest where palms are thrived. The ancient plants which save our food quest of the day. Licuala celebica, a fan palm of Sulawesi. Licuala celebica, the trunkless palm, flourished the lower layer of lowland forest of Lambusango. The Lohora butterfly, an endemic butterfly of Sulawesi sometimes like to rest on the flat surface of the leaf.
In the North Sulawesi, the effect of leaf overharvesting on Livistona rotundifolia has been observed and created smaller leaf production (check this out). In this area, the leaves are used particularly for roofing because of the thick and large round shape leaf. The roof made from Livistona palm may last up to 5 years. At least to what we seen here in Buton, Licuala celebica is not commonly harvested by people. So, hopefully our rice stuffed rolls wrapped by Licuala leaves did not affect the growth of this palm.
So, how was our stuffed rice rolls?
1. A young Licuala leaf was carefully stretched out. Two tablespoons of rice were flattened on the leaf and added with the stuffed mixture (sauté sardines and vegetables)
2. Individually wrapped stuffed rice rolls are ready to eat
We made these stuffed rice rolls the night before and lasted until the next day. It was worth to carefully plan this meal. Can you imagine having a stuffed rice rolls for lunch in the forest with a nice river view?