Unique take on ‘bak chang’ wrapping as trader substitutes wraps with giant pandan leaves

Madam Teo is seen cutting a bunch of gigantic pandan leaf at her makeshift work station at Kenyalang Park Market.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, May 29: While bamboo or reed leaves are commonly used to wrap savory ‘bak chang’ dishes, one trader is bringing a unique twist with gigantic pandan leaves.

A busy but friendly trader, who prefers to be called Madam Teo, took a break from cutting a bunch of elongated leaves with a familiar aromatic smell to speak with DayakDaily about her product.


Teo jovially revealed that the leaves were a fresh bunch of very mature pandan leaves intended for wrapping bak chang, a savory glutinous rice dish stuffed with various fillings.

“Many are familiar with using bamboo leaves for wrapping, but it’s less common to see pandan leaves being used,” Teo explained.

A close-up photo of the large pandan leafs that Madam Teo uses, which is about three to four inches in width.

“We locals have been making bak chang using gigantic pandan leaves for as long as I can remember.”

Teo elaborated that while people often associate pandan leaves with shorter lengths, certain species can grow quite large and are suitable for wrapping bak chang.

“This is a very long, mature pandan leaf I ordered from my supplier specifically for wrapping bak chang. Some bak chang makers prefer these leaves for the added aroma they impart to the dish,” she said.

Teo shared that pandan leaves are not only thick and strong but also a common substitute for bamboo leaves, though this is not widely known.

“You can also use these leaves for wrapping ketupat, especially during festival times,” she added.

“Bak chang is a dish available daily, so makers have options to add more variety and appeal.”

Hailing from Kampung Merdang Lumut in Kota Samarahan and speaking fluent Iban, Teo noted that every Gawai Dayak, many of her neighbors celebrate by making bak chang.

“These days, Sarawakians from all walks of life and races make bak chang. I provide them with the option of using pandan leaves if they want,” she said.

Teo explained that the giant elongated leaves are about five feet in length and cost her 30 to 50 sen per leaf from her suppliers.

She cuts them into 22-inch lengths to use as wrappers and sells 100 pieces for RM30.

“The leaf is 3 to almost 4 inches in width, making the 22-inch length sufficient to create a ‘cone-shaped’ container for the bak chang ingredients,” she noted.

The locality of Madam Teo’s tuck shop at Kenyalang Park Market.

“Bak chang makers need to pre-order the pandan leaves because I have to inform my supplier in advance.”

Teo’s shop, Voon Kuet Lim, is located at 21 Kenyalang Park Market and operates daily from 5 am to 12 pm, except on Mondays and Thursdays. For more information, call 016 864 7809. — DayakDaily