(Gnetum gnemon) The small oval fruits of the
gnemon tree, which are both red and green, contain a seed which is used
to make tantalizing, deep-fried crisps known as melinjo nut crackers. In
Indonesia, they are called emping melinjo or belinjo. They may be
labeled 'melinjo wafers', 'dried bitter nuts' or 'bitter nut crackers'.
Some brands list the ingredients as melinjo nuts and tapioca starch.
Others simply state that they are melinjo nuts, and indeed they look
like nuts which have been rolled out thinly. Some sources say the seed
is ground into flour, then pressed into a thin wafer and dried in the
sun. Whatever the method, the crackers are parchment colored, thin
circles, 2.5-3.5cm in diameter, with somewhat jagged edges.
Deep fry them in oil hot enough to puff them
but not brown them. Only cook a few at a time. Some varieties come with
a coating of sugar which browns when the crackers are fried. The texture
is not as light and crisp as un-sugared melinjo wafers. Some are already
fried, ready to eat. The plain wafers are best and most typical.
If stored airtight, dried melinjo wafers
keep for extended periods. Once they are fried it is best to serve them
right away. If they must be fried ahead of time, cool completely and
store in an airtight container, then sprinkle with salt before serving.
With their intriguing, slightly bitter flavor, they make a great nibble
pre-dinner or anytime. They are also used to garnish Indonesian dishes,
although they lose their crispness and charm if placed on hot food.