Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pucuk Paku: Wild Fern Shoots

Once in a while I see large clumps of this frilly green at Family Store near my house in Seremban. I've been curious what to do with them and figured that they are eaten like the many other kinds of 'greens' that I find in the stores and Wet Market here in Seremban. Recently while at the store I saw a fresh carton of these great greens just begging to be bought. So I brought a bunch home and started searching online. It turns out they are Fern which makes sense because they look a bit like ferns. It seems there are various kinds of fern and they are mainly referred to as Fiddlehead Fern. Only most of the photos online and the recipes seem to call for Fiddlehead Ferns that look chunkier than the Fern I bought at Family Store. It seems that these are popular in the US, but I never saw them in New York when I lived there, ever. Nor do I remember eating them in a restaurant. Actually, the thicker swirls look pretty damn cool!

Nevertheless, I had these thin ones, and so I needed to find out how to cook them. The best way to search is to use the Malay name obtainable from the Family Store label. Here it said Pucuk Paku. I was searching recipes and actually found a blog from a guy named Sham in Kuala Lumpur who is from Negeri Sembilan (the state in which Seremban is located); his blog is a joint deal with his mother together they post traditional Malay cooking with emphasis on Negeri Sembilan style! They post a recipe for Goreng Pucuk Paku (Fried Wild Fern Shoots) here.

I thought since I was in Negeri Sembilan and had some Pucuk Paku I better use his recipe which he describes as, "This one is really an easy one. I'm not that much of a vegetable eater but this is definitely one of my favourite vegetable dish. Very Negeri Sembilan... I think lah. I think you can get the wild fern shoots from any good wet market here. Bibik did the shopping for this and also the cooking for this dish. So enjoy!"

But, I didn't have either of the anchovy ingredients so I just sauteed the fern with minced garlic, hot chili, salt and pepper in olive oil. They tasted great! R ate them right out of the pan on the stove! He called them addictive. I didn't do that good of a job at separating the thicker stems from the lightweight fern parts and so the stems were a bit too crunchy and the fern a bit over cooked. Next time I'll do better...


  1. I love, love, love, sayur pucuk paku - Fiddleheads. Yum! Over the years in the US, I have often thought about pucuk paku and wondered exactly which fern has the edible fiddleheads. Eaten fiddleheads in restaurants in the US but never ventured beyond googling about it. Your posting is a call to action! Looking for and planting fiddlehead ferns is my next project.

    Pucuk Paku grew by the roadsides, under the canopy of rubber trees in rubber plantation and in kampung areas while I was growing up in Malaysia. We had to make sure they were not sprayed by the town council crew with pesticide!

    Thank you so much for the link to Sham Jahaluddin's blog- will visit it often

  2. I'm so happy the blog reminded you of pucuk paku and are looking to grow some yourself.

    Best wishes to you from Seremban!!!!

  3. try 'midin' in kuching. It's pucuk paku, but with lots of thin swirls. love it! :D

    am from seremban too. i hope one day u'll do a bread n pizza making class. i'll be happy to join. haha.

  4. If you eat only the coiled parts, it is really tender and sweet. I had the chance to do so when I went into a Temiar village in Ulu Perak during my uni days. Of course when you buy it at the markets, they sell you the entire frond with the tougher parts. it would take at least 5 to six bunches of whole fronds if you just want to eat the tender coiled heads. This is the Diplazium/Athyrium esculentum. It is mildly toxic, unlike the bracken fiddleheads that is carcinogenic. The paku midin (Stenochlaena palustris) is popular in Sarawak and less known over here. I was introduced to it by my Sarawakian friend. Along some highways they grow like weeds (eg LDP Puchong exit).

  5. thank you for the mention...i've had quite a bit of traffic from here. ;-)

  6. Hmm... we usually eat part of the steam too. Just throw them in a little earlier to cook longer. :) LOVE paku.

  7. Awek,
    I want to go to Kuching sometime soon, so will try there. Thanks! Next time I make some bread i'll let you know. I have to get some more yeast going to try a new kind.

    Are you saying what I used is the Diplazium/Athyrium esculentum and that it's mildly toxic???

    Nice to see you here. Look forward to trying more of the great negeri sembilan recipes on your site!

  8. Some phenotypes produces detectable levels of Ptaquiloside and perhaps an array of other terpenoid compounds that can be carcinogenic. It is ok unless you are eating vast quantities of it daily.

  9. OK good, won't be eating them too often!