Bilimbi (Averrhoa bilimbi) and Asam Sunti

BILIMBI

Bilimbi (belimbing sayur or belimbing wuluh in Indonesian) is one of fruit ingredients in Indonesian cooking and Asam Sunti is the sun-dried form of bilimbi. Both are used to give a tart or sour flavour in Indonesian recipes beside tamarind.

This bilimbi tree has been grown at my family’s house front yard since I was a teenager. I’m glad when I was back to visit that tree is still there.

The fruit of bilimbi is not the only part that Indonesians use for cooking. The leaves can be made for salad especially the Balinese style, known as lawar. I will post how bilimbi leaves lawar next time when I tell you the story of my two days visit to Bali. Meanwhile you can see the fresh leaves here.

Back in early 2011, I have posted an in-depth compilation of tart or sour flavouring resources in Indonesian cooking.

ASAM SUNTI

In Indonesia, bilimbi is common to be used cross the nation while asam sunti is particularly used in Acehnese food.

A blend of local ingredients such as asam sunti and the spices that are heavy influences from Indian culinary has created an unique distinct flavour to Aceh food itself. Surely curry leaves which are known as daun salam koja or daun kari are also very popular to be used in Acehnese kitchen.

In Acehnese household, Asam Sunti is often made at home. By drying off old bilimbi under the sun until wilted. Then, sprinkle the salt over and let the salt absorb. These processes are done repeatedly until the bilimbi turns brownish and dry. A good asam sunti texture will be a bit chewy and firm.

Here are the steps to make asam sunti
– Pick big-size and ripe of bilimbis.
– Day 1: Choose a sunny day if you are thinking to make asam sunti to eliminate rotten bilimbi. Sun-dry bilimbis on wide shallow place (wide baking pan) for the whole day. When the sun is down, bring them inside the house. Just in case it is raining.
– Day 2: Re-sundry them outside until the color turns a bit golden yellow. When the sun is down, sprinkle a small amount of salt evenly on bilimbis. Bring the pan inside the house again.
– Day 3: This morning, usually the bilimbis will excrete the liquid due to the salt added last night. Discard the liquid and re-sundry them again until the sun is down. Sprinkle some salt again evenly and bring them inside the house.
– Day 4: Sun-dry them again until the colour turn brown and a bit dry. When the bilimbis are completely dry, Transfer to a different dish, add some salt and keep in an airtight jar.
– Usually after day 4, asam sunti can not be used directly. Asam sunti is still too sour and slimy. New Sunti acid can be used normally a month later. Normally, asam sunti can be used a month later.

Asam sunti is used by grinding or pounding together with other spices. Along with curry leaves (daun salam koja, daun kari), it’s used widely in Aceh cooking. Save Asam Sunti in an airtight container in the fridge.

If you have a curiosity what I have used asam sunti for, please check my post of Sambai On Peuga-ga (Pennywort Sambal), Payeh Bileh (Anchovies Wrapped in Banana Leaves), Gulai Ikan Kembung Aceh (Acehnese Mackerel Curry), and Cumi Tumis Aceh (Aceh Squid Stir Fry)

About the Author

An Indonesian born who lives in Winnipeg, Canada for more than a decade and decided to move a bit west. Edmonton is now where she is based on. Indonesia Eats is a memoir of her homeland.