High prices no issue for dabai lovers

Salleh Mostapa and his dabai. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

The prices of dabai, an exotic seasonal fruit, has skyrocketed to more than RM50 per kilogramme but it is still much sought after by fruit lovers.

Dabai is oblong in shape just like an olive and has thin dark purple to black skins. It has white, yellowish or purple creamy flesh depending on its origin.

Usually eaten with soy sauce or salt, it is soaked in warm water until it turns soft. Dabai Fried Rice is one of Sarawak’s speciality dishes.

This year, dabai is being sold at very high prices here compared to previous years.

Dabai from Sibu sold at Salleh’s stall. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

“Unlike previous years, dabai supplies have fallen. Besides, dabai is produced and distributed by one division, Sibu, only. The demands are higher than the supplies and this has caused the fruit prices to skyrocket.

“Now, I’m selling dabai for between RM45 and RM60 per kilogramme,” explained Salleh Mostapa, a dabai seller at Medan Niaga Satok here.

The 62-year-old dabai seller said dabai suppliers could only be found in the towns of Sibu and Sarikei and that the fruits were transported to all parts of Sarawak by express buses to keep them cool.

Dabai from Sibu sold at Salleh’s stall. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

Although fruits come from many districts such as Kanowit, Song and Kapit, they are all sent to Sibu.

“Sarikei has dabai but the supplies are not as much as those from other districts. The fruits from different districts are different.

“The differences come in the forms of shapes, sizes and flesh. That is why the dabai fruits are divided into grades,” said Salleh.

Grade A dabai usually has thick creamy flesh texture and smooth skin. Grade B and Grade C dabai have much thinner flesh and are smaller.

Dabai fruits also have unique tastes based on the colours of their flesh such as white, yellow and purple.

In Kuching, it is common to see dabai with white or yellow flesh. 

Salleh Mostapa and his dabai. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

“Dabai fruits with purple coloured flesh are commonly found in Kapit. They are considered as high grade dabai and may cost around RM80 per kilogramme.

“People who know about the quality of dabai with purple flesh will buy them no matter how expensive they are,” said Salleh, adding that these dabai fruits were as big as Grade A dabai but much more delicious and creamier compared to others.

Unfortunately, he does not sell these dabai because of their limited supplies.

“I would also like to recommend the public to buy Dabai Belimbing which costs RM60 per kilogramme. It is worth every penny,” said Salleh.

“Dabai Belimbing is triangular in shape and has yellow flesh. It will be sold at the end of the dabai season.

“However, the size of this dabai is extremely small, smaller than the Grade C dabai. Buyers are reluctant to buy this dabai because of its size and price.”

Alvin James

Meanwhile, Alvin James, son of a dabai farm owner, said, “On our farm at Selepin, Bakong, we sell our dabai for RM20 per kilogramme to our traders in Miri, Bintulu and Sibu but we cannot provide much.”

He revealed that he had been selling selling dabai for six years and made the highest profit so far in 2020 because the trees were abundant with fruits.

“We sell and distribute dabai with yellow flesh which are popular with the people in Sarawak,” he said.

Alvin told New Sarawak Tribune, “If the tip is bright yellow, it means that the dabai is still fresh and has just harvested. 

“Dabai can remain fresh for up to three days. If you want them to last longer, keep them in the freezer. They can last up to one or two years,” he added.

Both Salleh and Alvin make pickles out of unsold dabai instead of throwing them away.