Forest Treasure from the Land of Hornbills
Terung Asam (Solanium lasiocarpum dunal), an exotic vegetable, is known as ‘Terung Dayak’ by the locals or ‘Sour Eggplant’ and is native to Borneo, specifically in the Sarawak region.
With its tangy taste, the vegetable adds a delightful twist to local dishes. Its distinctive sour taste and rich nutritional profile have made it a popular ingredient in numerous traditional dishes for centuries.
One of the most popular dishes is Terung Asam curry fish, where the sourness of Terung Asam complements the richness of the coconut and balances the spiciness of the chilli, creating a harmonious blend of flavours. Additionally, Terung Asam can be pickled or fermented, allowing it to be stored for longer periods and intensifying its tanginess.
Terung Asam belongs to the Solanaceae family and is characterised by its round shape and skin, which matures from green to yellow-orange. Beyond its delightful taste, Terung Asam offers a range of health benefits.
Rich in dietary fibre, Vitamin C, and antioxidants, the Terung Asam supports overall health and well-being. The dietary fibre aids digestion, helps maintain a healthy weight, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. In addition, Vitamin C is essential for boosting the immune system, promoting collagen synthesis, and facilitating iron absorption.
Meanwhile, the Terung Asam leaf has been used traditionally to treat allergies, body aches and swelling, skin injuries, and headaches. Locals also use it as a Chinese herbal medicine to effectively cure cough, bruises, hernia, sore throat, tooth decay, and edema (swelling caused by too much fluid trapped in the body’s tissues), as well as having an anaesthetic effect.
Interestingly, it was reported to exhibit whitening effects and inhibits the spread of cancer cells through sterol alkaloid solanine, and the potential to be antibechic (relives cough), anti-asthmatic, anti-rheumatic (alleviating or preventing rheumatism), anti-viral (treating viral infections), anti-cancer, and spermicidal (a kind of birth control that has chemicals that stops sperm from reaching an egg). However, the scientific report on Terung Asam Sarawak as a medicinal plant still needs to be expanded.
Professor Dr Khong Heng Yen and her team discovered that Terung Asam contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA), comparable to Garcinia Cambogia (a fruit native to South Asia and Southeast Asia). HCA, an important organic component as a dietary supplement, is essential nowadays as it aids in the weight loss process.
This organic acid was reported to be able to promote body fat loss in humans without stimulating the central nervous system. HCA captured high interest for its potential function as an appetite suppressor. It could serve as a healthy dietary supplement for weight loss management in handling a worldwide health problem with incalculable social costs associated with obesity.
Additionally, Khong’s team, in their antioxidant assay, also revealed strong antioxidants with DPPH scavenging activity of about 70 per cent in the tested Terung Asam samples. The antioxidant could help protect against cellular damage caused by harmful free radicals, potentially reducing the risk of certain diseases.
Terung Asam could testify to the rich culinary heritage and diverse flavours that make Sarawak cuisine beloved worldwide due to its tangy taste and rich nutritional profile. Furthermore, Terung Asam is a great potential source of HCA, which can be further developed as a natural dietary supplement for losing weight and creating a healthy lifestyle.
Thus, this exotic vegetable should be promoted for more production and can be established as an important commercial vegetable in Sarawak. — DayakDaily
Professor Dr Khong Heng Yen is a professor at UiTM Sarawak under the university’s Faculty of Applied Sciences. Her expertise include bioassay-guided fractionation and isolation of bioactive constituents from medicinal plants, standardisation of Malaysian medicinal plants, and essential oils extraction and identification.
‘Forest Treasure from the Land of Hornbills’ is a column that will be contributed periodically by UiTM Sarawak.