Nai Nai Anita’s Buah Keluak

Written by: Michael Lim

y grandma, Anita, learnt how to make buah keluak by watching her grandma make it. Back then, her grandma wouldn’t bother to explain it to her, so she learnt from watching her cook in the kitchen. I’m grateful that now she can teach me how to make the recipe!

“I realised how they put in a weeks work of effort; cleaning, breaking, filling and cooking the buah keluak, just for the family to enjoy one meal.”

This buah keluak recipe holds close to us, as my grandma would make it every Chinese New Year, and our large family (5 children, 17 grandchildren, 1 greatgrandchild) would gather together and eat buak keluak. However, recently my grandma has become less nimble in the kitchen and so she’s become more of a head chef, guiding my siblings as we cook.

Chopped ingredients before blending
My grandpa & I filling buah keluak
Buah keluak meat and mince pork mixture

In the video we interviewed my grandparents about buak keluak. My grandpa, who’s just turned 89, explains the process and tools he uses. Breaking the seeds alone can take up a whole day and requires quite a bit of strength. There’s a lot of love that goes into making it- as he says, “Eating is very easy, but the preparation is not that easy.” From the interview, I formed a whole new level of appreciation for my grandparents, because I realised how they put in a weeks work of effort; cleaning, breaking, filling and cooking the buah keluak, just for the family to enjoy one meal.

Finished buah keluak!
Final product, served with rice
Family pup, Zena

Over the years, many people have asked my grandma what’s her secret for making such amazing buah keluak and here you’ll learn, it’s more than just the addition of minced meat and perfection of the spicy rumpah. It’s love.


Anita’s Buah Keluak

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Recipe by Anita Lim Course: MainCuisine: PeranakanDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time




  • To blend
  • 1 red onion

  • 100 g blue ginger

  • 65 g turmeric

  • 450 g shallot

  • 500 g dried chilli, split in half and then soaked in hot water

  • 100 g candlenut, soaked in hot water then mashed

  • 4-5 tbsp belachan (dry-fry until fragrance releases)

  • 140 g sliced lemongrass

  • 220 g big red chilli, de-seeded

  • 500 g dahlia tamarind (assam)

  • 1 whole chicken

  • 1 kg pork ribs (optional)

  • For the filling
  • 1 kg mince pork

  • 1.5 kg buah keluak (~100 pcs)

  • 3 tbsp corn flour

  • 0.5 tbsp salt


  • Cleaning the buah keluak shell
  • Soak buah keluak shells for 1 week, change water every other day.
  • Brush the shell to take out the mud.
  • Knock shell (there is a hole in the centre), using screwdriver and hammer to crack open. Top shell will come out — this takes about 1 day.
  • Dig out meat (comes out as flesh). Makes sure there’s no shell inside.
  • Preparing the rumpah (spice paste)
  • Slice all blended ingredients, just enough to fit them in the blender.
  • Blend all the ingredients. Add water if needed for smoother blending.
  • Making the filling
  • In a bowl, mix mince pork with buah keluak meat (this can be done using your hands or wooden spatula). Add corn flour and salt to the meat mixture.
  • Using a spoon, scoop the filling into the buah keluak shell. Fill it well by ensuring there are no air pockets.
  • If not consuming straight away, cover the filled buah keluak shells and keep in the fridge.
  • Putting it together
  • Heat up oil in a pot (around 1 cup). Add rumpah and fry until fragrant (medium-high fire, 5-10mins). Add 1.5tbsp salt.
  • Add pork ribs and stir (optional).
  • In another bowl, mix assam with enough water to cover the meat in the pot (If making 10 servings, this would be ~4 cups water. This will help tenderise the meat). Sieve this assam water mixture into the pot and stir.
  • Add filled buah keluak shells, and more water if needed to cover the meat in the pot.
  • Cover and cook for about 45mins, until pork ribs are soft. Remember to stir to avoid burning.
  • Adjust the taste by adding more assam (sour) or salt or lemongrass if needed.
  • Add chicken, cook until cooked and tender.
  • Serve with rice.


  • Use an earthenware pot for the best results!

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With special thanks from the Kampung Eats team to Nai Nai Anita, Yeye Albert & family!

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