Friday, June 18, 2010

where does the 'opeh' leaf come from?

the light yellow fibrous sheet that is making a comeback as a food wrapper comes from the betel nut palm, the areca catechu. hokkien mee or whatever food, apparently, has an enhanced flavour when wrapped or served in an 'opeh hak'. in the past, chye tow kway - the fried version - chwee kway and chee cheong fun used opeh leaf for takeaway purposes.

although the betel nut palm is not as common as the macarthur's palm here, you can find it growing in different places in singapore. i had searched the island to take some photographs of the palm, little realising that there are some in my housing and development board (hdb) housing estate.

the areca catechu is not as slender as the macarthur's palm but, given the right conditions, it normally outgrow the latter. it can reach a height of nearly 25m. the tree bears fruit when it is around 10 years old and after that it can continue to provide fruit for another 50 years.

actually it is not the leaf that is used for the wrapping of food; it is the leaf-frond or the main stalk of the leaf. this is the part that is attached to the slender trunk of the palm.

the unripe fruit of the areca catechu is green. it turns orange when it is ripe. there is also a species which is maroon when ripe. within the fibrous husk is the seed. the seed is the main reason for the areca catechu being commercially cultivated.

my blogger friend, chun see, who blogged about traditional food wrappings here mentioned the opeh leaf.


Lam Chun See said...

Ah ... suddenly I feel hungry!

kimology said...

The leaf they used nowadays is just a miserable corner compared to the huge piece they used to wrap the noodles in, complete with the reed for tying so the aroma was very good compared to the present watered down version.

yg said...

kimology, maybe nowadays they have to cut corners to make more money.

Lam Chun See said...

Yeah; if you read my article, I mentioned the hawker complaining to me that the Opeh leaf is so expensive these days.

But I believe some hawkers may be willing to wrap it up for you just like the old days. But you will probably have to make a special request; and pay extra of course. May be worth the trouble just to let the young ones have a taste and learn a lesson too.

I remember one time, when I was driving in Ipoh and spotted this roadside vendor selling chendol. I stopped my car and purchased two packets just so that I can take some photos of his old ice-shaving machine. My son also got to see what this gadget looked like. In the end, we didn't even drink the chendol .. for fear of hygiene problem. I blogged about that episode here.

Ben aui said...

Where can buy opeh leave? Details. THANK YOU