In the fifth episode of Eating Wild, naturalist Nigel Marven and chef Anis Nabilah explored the connection between the world’s smallest bear, a predator bug and nutritious Malaysian sustainable palm oil. They learned that Malaysia’s palm oil industry is committed to preserving the habitat of native wildlife and using eco-friendly agricultural processes.
Palm oil industry supports the Sun Bear Conservation Center
Sun bears, the world’s smallest species of bear, are only found in Southeast Asia. The bears are totally protected, according to Siew Te Wong, founder and CEO of the Sun Bear Conservation Center. In addition to research and education, the center cares for bears that were once illegally held captive. Wong says, “Our center is trying to give as much help as possible to these animals, and then hopefully one day we can release them back into the wild.”
Malaysian palm oil is produced using eco-friendly practices
Marven and Nabilah visited a Malaysian palm plantation to learn how the oil is produced. IJM Plantations CEO Joseph Tek explained how plantations use drip irrigation to conserve water and palm biomass as mulch. “It’s zero waste,” Tek explained. “We extract out what we want economically and whatever is left is recycled back to the trees.”
The trees’ fruit is collected by hand, and taken to a mill where it is crushed and sterilized. The crude oil is then sustainably produced to the desired end product at a refinery. “Palm oil is in everything,” Nabilah said, “from chocolate to shampoo, but my favorite is cooking oil.”
Malaysian palm oil plantations use integrated pest management and breed their own insects to control the harmful caterpillars that feed on palm leaves. “It is much better to use natural predators than insect repellent,” said Marven. “The assassin bugs are off to their jobs to polish off pests in the plantation,” he said as the insects fluttered away.
Malaysian-inspired recipes using sustainable palm oil
Cooking under the shadow of strangler fig tree, Nabilah prepared Szechuan spicy prawns with wild ferns, using one of the sun bears favorite ingredients, honey. The spicy recipe uses native wild ferns and prawns along with ginger, red chili flakes and Malaysian sustainable palm oil. “If you love cooking, you need to use palm oil,” Nabilah commented. “It’s nutritious and packed with antioxidants.” Nabilah also prepared Taiwan three-cup chicken with goji berries. The savory dish featured home-grown palm oil and the exotic goji berries or wolfberry.
The Asian Food Channel
The Asian Food Channel (AFC) is the leading food and lifestyle broadcaster in Asia, broadcasting in 13 territories including Hong Kong, Malaysia, China and the Philippines. The channel is owned by Scripps Networks Interactive which also owns U.S. favorites, the Travel Channel and Food Network. AFC is the first food TV channel to broadcast pan-regionally in Asia.