Midin — more than a wild fern

George showing his best grade midin at his stall in Bandar Riyal Market.

Kenyalang Portraits

By Wilfred Pilo

KOTA SAMARAHAN, March 24: Foraging for fresh local ferns (‘midin’) from the wild and turning them into delightful dishes is always fun. The beloved vegetable is pesticide-free and can be found in abundance in certain open spaces, usually the low swampy land of secondary forests. It can also be found by roadsides.

Over the years, this crunchy, wild vegetable has become an icon of sorts among food lovers and fetches a good price, especially in the vegetarian food market. Hence, it is understandable that many people do make a living out of selling midin.

It is very easy to find midin. It is sold in virtually every marketplace across the state and is a standard item on the menus of most eateries.

Iban trader George Jali Galo, 69, from Merdang Lumut here, who has a stall at Bandar Riyal Market in Kota Samarahan, has been selling good quality midin for about 10 years now.

“I was selling midin even before I moved into this market almost four years ago.” said this retired police sergeant.

“These wild ferns are aplenty in this area. They give me extra income, apart from my monthly pension. I spend the extra savings on my grandchildren, sometimes,” he told DayakDaily.

Grade A midin sold at George’s stall in Bandar Riyal Market.

He wraps each bunch of ferns with ‘Buan’ leaves or Dillenia leaves and sell them for between RM2 and RM3 each, depending on grade — B or C. Grade A ones are usually sold to restaurants for a very good price, up to RM15 per kilo.

“I am thankful for what nature has given me. It gives me economic well-being. But, of course, I have to work hard for it. Nothing drops down from the sky,” he chuckled.

He explained that midin that has a fiddle head, large straight stem and few leaves is considered the Grade A variety.

“These are the top grade ferns. They fetch good prices and we sell them to restaurants to earn more,” he disclosed.

“The lower grade ones have loose fiddle heads, thinner stems and more leaves. The lowest grade ones have no fiddle heads, harder stems and are very leafy. They are nice for soupy dishes. These are the ones we sell here.”

Grade B midin.
Grade C leafy midin at George’s stall.

George said his favourite recipe in cooking midin is putting them into a pot of boiling water that has a mixture of ginger, garlic and small fried fish (or dried fish such as ‘Salai Lajong’). Just add a bit of salt for taste.

He noted that these days, almost everybody eats midin that has been fried with garlic, dry shrimps or ‘belacan’ (shrimp paste). In restaurants, it is sometimes served as green salad with a vinegar or lime (‘limau kasturi’) juice dressing, small dried shrimps or anchovies (‘ikan bilis’) and slices of shallots, garlic and chilli.

“I have tried them, but I still prefer the Dayak style of cooking it,” he confided.

A close-up shot of a midin dish usually sold in eateries and restaurant,

George also disclosed a secret — midin should be cooked the day it is bought or else its “crunchiness” would be lost.

“Even the leafy ones, for us, if we fail to sell all of them, we will throw away the leftovers,” he said.

George believes that one day, technology will be available to make midin stay fresh for a while longer. When that day comes, these ferns will be able to find their way to dining tables the world over. — DayakDaily