Nipah Salt

Ark of taste
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Garam Attap

Garam Attap Nipah salt (or garam attap) is salt processed from the matured leaves of the buah nipah palm, Nypa fruticans. Nipah palm grows abundantly and wild along coastal areas throughout Sarawak. The palms are constantly bathed by the saline water daily, and this salt can be processed from the leaves. Nipah salt is used flavor foods and also in food processing. It has a smoky flavor as well as the aroma of dried nipah leaves.   The mature palm leaves are cut and harvested and spread out on mats to dry in the sun for 3 to 4 days. Once dried, the leaves are burned and the ashes are collected. The ashes are then put into a big cast iron wok of water to boil. The debris that floats to the surface is gradually removed as the liquid boils. The liquid is constantly stirred to evaporate the water. The salt solidifies and collects at the bottom of the pan forming a cake of salt. This is allowed to cool. The cake of salt is then wrapped in nipah leaves for storage or for retail market.   Historically, in the interior of areas inhabited by the Iban community, sea salt was not readily available. Nipah leaves were the only source of salt. The Malay people who lived along the coastlines and lower river tributaries made nipah salt and brought it to the Ibans in exchange for Iban crafts and ilipenut oil. The salt was used to preserve, conserve and ferment foods in the time before refrigeration.   Today, nipah salt is still found for sale in the local community markets of smaller towns. It is usually packed and wrapped up in dried nipah leaves in packets of half a kilogram. However, the availability of modern salt and other cheap processed salts has threatened the production of nipah salt. The modern salt is readily available and convenient to use, and fewer young people are willing to go through the process of gathering and transforming nipah leaves. Therefore, knowledge of how to make and use this traditional product is gradually disappearing from the people of the area. 

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Indigenous community:Malay and Iban