Kelatang Caterpillar: The Hidden Culinary Gem of Krayan, North Kalimantan

Caterpillar Kelatang still inside a wooden log. Illustration: Arbain Rambey.

Caterpillar Kelatang. Have you ever heard of this extreme yet nutritious delicacy? If not, then visit and explore Krayan, Nunukan Regency, North Kalimantan. 

Krayan covered by 90% virgin forest and situated at an altitude of 800 - 1,300 meters above sea level, holds extraordinary natural wealth. In his dissertation published in 2021, Dr. Samuel Tipa Padan concluded that Krayan can sustain itself with its natural resources. Moreover, these resources will never be exhausted if managed properly and effectively.

One of the thousands of "natural assets in Krayan" is the "kelatang caterpillar." This caterpillar is clean, only living and dwelling in certain types of wood. To harvest it, the wood is felled and cut open to retrieve the caterpillars nesting inside.

Kelatang: The Natural Wealth of Krayan

In the interior forests of North Kalimantan, particularly in Krayan, there lies a mystery surrounding a small creature called kelatang.

Kelatang, a type of caterpillar without hairs, has become a topic of interest among the Dayak people. What makes it truly stand out is the fact that this creature has two gall bladders, a rarity in nature.

In the forest areas, plantations, rice fields, and agricultural lands owned by Dr. Yansen TP in Batu Ruyud, there is an abundance of wood containing kelatang caterpillars.

Though it may seem strange to many, the Lundayeh Dayak tribe, who live in Krayan, regard kelatang as a culinary treasure. The Krayan people utilize kelatang as a food ingredient that provides a unique flavor not found in other vegetables or animals.

When cooked in a unique way, kelatang offers a distinctive taste combination that delights anyone who tries it.

Processing Kelatang

The processing of kelatang begins with selecting high-quality caterpillars. The Dayak people have a special method for capturing and preparing kelatang, involving age-old traditions and deep knowledge of the forest habitat. The caterpillars are then cleaned and cooked with natural spices found in the Kalimantan forest, creating a dish that is not only delicious but also rich in cultural and historical value.

Properly prepared kelatang brings a sense of adventure, highlighting the wonders of the North Kalimantan forest.

In addition to being processed into delicious and nutritious culinary dishes, kelatang caterpillars can also be eaten raw as they are clean.

Kelatang as a nutritious and extraordinary delicacy in Krayan. Photo: Melvari.

The unique taste of kelatang, which is slightly sweet and savory with an unusual deliciousness, makes it a favorite among the Dayak community and culinary adventurers willing to try something new.

Not just food but a symbol of the natural wealth and biodiversity

For the Dayak people, kelatang is not just food but a symbol of the natural wealth and biodiversity of the Kalimantan forest, as well as a cultural heritage that must be preserved and respected.

With each kelatang dish, the Dayak people do not just serve food but also tell a story about their harmonious relationship with nature. It is a story of how humans and nature can coexist, support, and sustain each other.

Kelatang, with all its uniqueness and flavor, stands as a silent witness to this relationship, reminding us of the importance of protecting and nurturing the biodiversity that exists on Earth.

-- Masri Sareb Putra

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