The Buah Keluak tree is native to this region and is one of Nature’s monsters. It is a poisonous tree with awkward looking fruits suggesting a stomach crammed with big seeds. The poison, hydrogen cyanide, occurs in all parts of the tree. This can be easily removed by washing with water. Natives have discovered this and have devised various ways of treating the leaves, especially the seeds so that they can be eaten. The oil that can be extracted from the seeds is used by jungle folk for cooking when coconut oil is scarce. Fresh leaves, seeds or oil from the tree was used as an antiseptic & disinfectant in the early days.
Its name 'edule' means 'edible' in Latin. The tree is cultivated by people for food. Its seeds are readily transported and the saplings can maintain themselves in forest. The seed can also float for a long while and can be distributed by rivers and washed up on the seashore.
The tree starts to fruit from 15 years and can live to a great age.
The treated kernels can be grounded to form thick black gravy called "rawon". Popular east Javan dishes that have this gravy include nasi rawon and meats in sambal rawon.
In Singapore and Malaysia, the seeds are best known as an essential ingredient in ayam (chicken) buah keluak, a mainstay of Peranakan cuisine.