15 January 2019

Enbal: Transforming Venomous Cassava into Rich Flavor


If you have the opportunity to visit the eastern part of Indonesia, you can easily find various types of staple foods other than rice. This is the case in Papua, where most people are familiar with sago. Moving a little to the West, Southeast Maluku to be precise, its citizens are more familiar with various variants of root tubers, one of which is kasbi.

Kasbi is cassava or cassava that contains poison. So, when traveling around in the area, you will find many processed Kasbi products or commonly called ‘enbal’. The traditional food of Kei and Tual is served from the corners of the market to the table in every house.

For the local community, enbal has an important and strategic meaning. Besides being a staple food, enbal is also a medium for intimacy and brotherhood. Such an atmosphere is even more pronounced when there are relatives who come from overseas to work or complete their education.

“No need to be surprised that enbal must be in almost every house. In the past, it (enbal) was the main food, beating rice and corn,” Welhelmus Renus (56), Chairman of Ohoi Ad Kei Besar Village told the doctorSHARE media team in mid-October.

Accompanied by the hot sun around 1:30 p.m. WIT, we walked through the Ohoi Ad area. Flowers adorned the yards of several houses. The flowers were white, without stalks and leaves. They did not grow at dawn in plant pots. The homeowner deliberately dried them on a homemade wooden table.

Yes, Welhelmus’ statement is not a myth. The sun-dried flowers are enbal flowers that will later end up in the stomach of the homeowner, either as a snack or main meal.

“In the afternoon, it’s good to eat it with coffee or tea,” he explains, pointing to the treats on his veranda where we’re chatting.

She occasionally dips the flower enbal into the coffee in her left hand as she recounts the steps of making the enbal. She says the process is not difficult. However, the most important part of the process is removing the kasbi’s poison.

At first, fresh kasbi that has been peeled must be soaked and rinsed first. Once clean, the kasbi is grated using a conventional grater. Welhelmus nimbly modeled the process with up-and-down hand movements.

Next, the grated kasbi is put into a certain size of gauze and then put into the “tindis” (press). This process is instrumental in removing the kasbi’s toxins. The tindis tool is used to squeeze the grated kasbi to remove the water from the paste until it is dry. The result of this stage is called enbal gepe.

“It is usually left in the tindis overnight until it dries completely like flour,” Welhelmus added.

The flour can be dried in the sun and sifted again if you want to get a finer texture. This product is actually suitable for consumption. However, most people there process enbal flour into other snacks. For example, it is used to wrap fried bananas, or to make flower enbal. More modernly, there are now sweet enbal with various flavors that are neatly packaged in the window of souvenir shops.

Unfortunately, the doctorSHARE team did not have the opportunity to witness the making process directly.

Nutritional Content of Enbal

Elizabeth J. Tapotubun through her thesis research in 2012 entitled “Nutritional Content and Shelf Life of Traditional Food “Enbal” from Kei Islands with the Addition of Layang Fish Flour” said that the product contains high carbohydrates. However, other nutritional values are very low.

Moreover, enbal must go through a drying process to remove the toxic content. He said that the drying process or the reduction of moisture content in foodstuffs will cause the mineral content to be concentrated. This means that substances such as carbohydrates and fats may still remain in it. On the other hand, some vitamins, amino acids, and colors are damaged or reduced.

“A type of drying influences the quality of the final product,” he writes.

Therefore, she provides an alternative way of consuming traditional enbal food, namely with a combination of other food ingredients. Like papeda in Papua, enbal can also be eaten with processed yellow fish soup as a side dish to complement nutrients (especially protein).

Through her research, she offered to modify the composition of enbal with the addition of fish flour, considering the characteristics of Southeast Maluku as a potential coastal area with rich seafood. The aim is to increase the nutritional content of enbal by utilizing available resources.