Emping Belinjo / Gnetum Gnemon Fruit Crackers


Emping Belinjo or Melinjo are small crisp crackers with a bitter edge. Made from the fruit of a Belinjo/Melinjo (gnetum gnemon) tree, the ripe red fruit are boiled then pounded and dried into flat little disks that puff up a bit when fried for just a few seconds. The whole time we lived in Indonesia, we constantly enjoyed this crisp treat, often with a chicken or oxtail soup. Mrs. MM was far more keen on these crackers, while I tended towards the more typical kropek or krupuk shrimp crackers. For some reason, I was under the mistaken impression that the crackers were made from aleurites moluccana or candle nuts (so named because they are sometimes used to make candles)…


So when reading up on gnetum gnemon in reference books (The Encyclopedia of Asian Food and Cooking) and the internet, my most “aha!” moment came when I realized that these crackers, from a Belinjo (in Bahasa Indonesian) fruit/tree, are exactly the same tree known to many Filipinos as bago, and which I just recently featured in this post!


I think we bought this package of emping belinjo from the Indonesian food stall at Megamall a few weeks ago, and we recently fried them up to enjoy with a soto ayam, recipe here, or along with a nasi goreng, or Indonesian fried rice, here. It also pairs well with a fatty but delicious bowl of sop buntot or oxtail soup!


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48 Responses

  1. With all of the crisp helpings of chicharon and balat ng lechon recently, I think it’s weird to know there’s a fruity chricharon out there.

  2. that is amazing! have never encountered this. krupuk, yes, but belinjo (” a super leisure time snack” as it says on the package), no. have to find a bago tree soon!

  3. any recipe for oxtail soup? is this oxtail soup similar to the korean version famous in hawaii..

  4. Indonesian ”krupuk” or Filipino ” kropek”…It is made from roasted and pounded bago seeds…Bago is one of the under utilized Philippine fruits…It is a beautiful evergreen tree medium in height that bears lansones like fruits that turns like elongated coffee fruits when ripe…Bago is very common in Alitagtag and Cuenca in Batangas and in the island of Marinduque…However in those areas it is not prepared as ” kropek”, they love it boiled or roasted like chestnuts….seedlings can be sourced out here in Los Banos if anyone’s interested.

    MM…Candlenut tree( Aleurites mollucana) known in Tagalog as Lumbang is used for oil lamps and not for candles…The timber on the other hand…according to my uncle it is the most sought after material for bakya ” wooden clogs” by carvers in Paete, Laguna…The nuts are also utilized by Polynesians for the same purpose..it is known in Hawaiian as ” Kukui” …Kukui groves are sacred in Hawaii….

  5. el_jefe, you’re becoming our in-house encyclopedia for botany. Galing! If the candlenut tree is grown locally, do you know if the candlenut fruit (or nut?) is also available locally? This is used in Indonesian/Malaysian curries but, as far as I know, sold only in Santi’s for a small fortune.

  6. el jefe, thanks for your comment, I have learned some things today. However, most krupuk or kropeck is in fact made with shrimp and or fish and flour, not pounded bago seeds. Kropeck and krupuk without the bitter edge is likely to be made from shrimp/prawns or fish meal. I would love to grow a bago tree if only to eventually try my hand at making our own bago crackers… I had no idea the candlenuts are used to oil lamps, but I guess that makes sense as the oil is flammable. In Indonesia, they are mixed with other ingredients to make candles, and are still used in some parts of that archipelago… It’s fascinating how I am now beginning to run across these plants/trees/fruits that I was NEVER aware of as a young kid/adult.

    krupuk udang – shrimp crackers
    krupuk ikan – fish crackers
    krupuk tempe – which I think are made from fermented soybeans
    singkong – cassava chips
    emping melinjo/belinjo – bago seeds pounded and dried

  7. Cumin, i dont have any idea where to get candlenuts in Manila….But if u like, perhaps we could hike Mt. Makiling to gather fallen nuts hehhehe… Have u been to sta. lucia golf club in GMA Cavite? They actually used Candle nut trees as accents for their golf course…and these trees are already fruiting…perhaps you could ask the caddies to gather you some seeds…hehhe..How much do they sell this at santis? Thanks Cumin…

    MM…Its easy to make bago cracklings…peel the mature seeds…roast it in a pan….and pound it in a ” lusong” or wooden pestle =this is different from almirez …lusong is the one used to tresh palay…or you could use a flat metal pestle to flatten the seeds…by the way the seed’s consistency when pounded is very sticky…almost similar to the consistency of cooked ”galapong” It can be fried even ryt after pounding..however you can dry it for future use,….

  8. to el jefe, re kukui oil. That is very interesting as a friend in Hawaii sent me a bottle of kukui oil. I used it for my residents’ faces as moisturizers and other areas and it really helped their skin. Apparently, it is medicinal, too, and good for psoriasis, but for this I have not tried.
    Interesting, about the bago fruit.

  9. This is out of topic but paging el-jefe. I have noticed that all the dapdap trees along NLEX are either dead or dying. The leaves grow smaller and smaller until the trees die. I read a couple of years ago that there is a bug that came from abroad that has been doing this damage to the dapdap trees. The first casualties were the dapdap trees lining Roxas Blvd. Is still there no cure for this? Can they still be saved?

  10. Yes Maricel I have observed that too…I hardly see dapdap nowadays..i miss the fiery summer blooms of dapdap…Im not really sure but I suspect this has something to do with the climate change….dapdap trees along south expressway have been bleached….or perhaps what u were saying is also true…perhaps aphids also sucked the trees dry or maybe you are pertaining to ”brontispa” a sucking insect that affected thousands of coconut trees in southern tagalog and palawan..these insects reached our shores through lack of quarantine measures implemented on cargo handling….it entered the philippines through our ports from indonesia…hahha pasencya napo ang daldal ko…pero maricel sige ireresearch ko nga din yan kung bakit nangamatay ang mga dapdap…nagtataka din ako…buti sinabi mo…mmmmm magandang gawing percussion ang wood ng dapdap….ginagamit ito sa marinduque na pantugtog sa ”putong”….

    Frida …kukui oil is of superior quality…em not really sure if it has curative properties… but good for you it made positive results…I even tried to make soap using kukui oil and it works though i know that it still need further improvement…it can also be used to replace ”linseed oil”….the oil used in oil painting and oil based paints….It is used as a fuel for oil lamps during the olden times in batangas and laguna….the seed are somewhat like round wallnuts and the endosperm is like a huge garbansos…

  11. Maricel..for old dying trees…i think they should be cut down since they can be road hazard…Dapdap trees can be propagated both asexually or sexually…asexually= stem cuttings e.g. trunks, branches, twigs…sexually=seeds…dapdaps are actually tree legumes…similar to acacia ipil-ipil, madre de cacao, tamarind and katuray…so kalahi nila ang mga sitaw at bataw…I think extensive replanting of dapdap should be employed in NLEX and SLEX….

  12. hi there MM! do you have a recipe for oxtail soup? i’ve tried several versions but they don’t come close to the version i used to enjoy in ymca in honolulu…

  13. @el_jefe, cumin.. sama naman ako if you’re going hiking… but i think there’s a tree or two around los banos campus.. will check it out. there are several bago trees near the DL Umali Auditorium; didnt know they were bago trees until afew years ago. they do look like coffee! i was wondering why no one ever collects the berries.. kaya pala, kasi hindi kape.

  14. OO ba! calorie taga lb kaba?hehhe oo may candlenut tree sa may UPCO ..yes mga bago trees nga un me sa IH sa me audi. merun din duon sa parking lot ng DevCom…malapit sa dating rural bank sa may econ hahhahha….nalilito kana siguro… MM sencya na kun madaldal ako sa panulat ko ha…hehhehe

  15. el_jefe, sorry I can’t remember the exact price for candlenuts at Santi’s, just that I dropped the pack very quickly. Recipes suggest hazelnuts as an alternative, but just as expensive. Yes na yes to a hike in UPLB with you and calorie_shmalorie! :-)

  16. o tara cumin hehhehe! basta sabihin nyo lang kun ok senyo at kailan mamulot tayo ng lumbang ibenta naten sa santis hehehhehhe…susme pinababatuhan lang namen un ng mga classmates ko…gagamiten kasi namen dapat na science project nun hiskul….

  17. El-jefe, yes I also miss the dapdap blooms, at the rate they are dying there may be endangered pretty soon. Yes, the ones at NLEX also look bleached (maybe the life sucked out of them?). Whatever it is seems to affect only the dapdap trees as the other trees right beside them all look perfectly healthy.

  18. Same thing here down south…dapdaps are dying ..i hardly see those trees nowadays…the tops and young leaves are stewed by by our bikolano neighbor…are u from bulakan? pampanga? YOu are such an observant maricel….before i thought I was the ONLY person worrying about dapdaps existence…”SAVE DAPDAP TREES!!!!” hehhehe

  19. The dapdap trees were all infected with a virus that killed nearly all of them in the Metro Manila and possibly luzon area. Carlos Celdran did a post on it several years ago.

  20. MM we cook this at home just the way as how we cook banana cue (caramelized emping). Im not sure if thats the right way to do it though nevertheless it still taste absolutely good! Never thought it would go well with the soup or the fried rice. Thanks for the idea!

  21. One of my fave food blogs is called Tasty Island. A Hawaii food blog by a wild and crazy guy! Try his archives for a recipe on Oxtail Soup which I believe is Portuguese in origins and definitely one of the very best soups!

  22. yes el_jefe, am from LB. would be fun to meet up with interested marketmanila readers (and MM of course) and take the campus botanical tour (hehe..swipe a few candlenuts, bago berries, pili fruits..). maybe a cookout after the foraging. i can do dessert…

  23. I was told at a Hawaiian ethnobotany center that the Hawaiians and other polynesians would string the peeled nuts on a wick (like a palm leaf midrib) and burn them that way as an actual candle. But I’ve never actually tried to replicate that. I’ve mainly eaten candlenuts in the condiment for Hawaiian poke (I forget what that is called), the whole nut is just too rich for my taste.

  24. el_jefe, taga forestry or devcom ka ba? I know that area between devcom and the old rural bank. I didn’t notice the bago trees there. Or I simply had selective perception, busy sa skul noong mga panahon na nasa LB ako.

  25. CALORIE… oo ba ppwede naten isked yan at magkulinarya tour tayo around laguna aside from LB perhaps we could visit old …heritage towns like liliw, majayjay and nagcarlan….nagluluto din ako calorie so di na tayo magugutom hehe…

    MONI…no moni UPLB din ako pero ibang college ako, pero syempre sa LB uso ang maglakad at mag unwind kaya ko napagkikita ang mga puno…moni kailan kaba huli pumunta sa LB? cguro nakatanim nayun dun 5 years ago pa…namumunga na sila now…hehe pumunta kaba noong LOYALTY Day? at Alumni Homecoming? anu course mo pala?>

    KURZHAAR…They do the same thing here in the Philippines during the olden times…the Tagalog natives would fuel their bamboo torches with crushed ”lumbang” or ”kukui” nuts..using a fiber or a cloth serving as the wick.
    It really did tickle my interest that Hawaii almost half of the globe away from the Philippines have lots of similarities…”kukui” nut may have been carried by migrating Polynesians who are believed to have come from South east Asia…The ” Hawaiian poi” is similar to our ”Nilupak” or pounded taro, cassava,banana or breadfruit…Bark cloths are also in use here before the arrival of the backstrap loom…The crops in Hawaii are southeast asian in origin however Hawaiians doesnt have rice culture until the arrival of Filipinos and Chinese…Kissing is not known before the arrival of Spaniards here…Filipinos like Hawaiians ”rub noses” or ”smell each other” instead…Old Filipino practices are very akin to Polynesian culture, before it was changed by Magellan and Capt. James Cook…hehhe How nice… Anyway…

    According to my grandmothers accounts…during world war II they crush the nuts..press it to extract the oil using what they call ”hapitan”…they use the oil for their lamps and lanterns..since there’s nowhere to buy commercial ”crudo” or crude oil during the Japanese occupation in Batangas province…

  26. I just planted a bago tree in last week! It was a gift, together with the seedling of the Quezon berry lipute. The bark is also used for rope.

    The related gnetum indicum also has edible fruits and leaves, and has drinking water in its stems.. If you look at historical texts foreigners mention a lot of nut trees that are not in major production/knowledge these days

    There is a big connection between culinary diversity and biodiversity. Once food becomes homogenized and commodified, people stop valuing trees and plants. What is the effect of the sinigang mix on the many pangpaasims of our country?

    el jefe, nilupak is not fermented, while poi is… But we do have a lot of similarities, even with South Indians from Andaman area. Pacific Islanders share a lot in terms of plants and temperament.

  27. el_jefe, is the bago tree the same one where bago leaves are harvested from? In Leyte, bago leaves are sold during market day (tabo) and it is cooked with coconut milk.

    I was last in UPLB on Oct 8-10, 2009 as I got a distinguished alumna award for R & D from the devcom alumni association. But I didn’t have time to walk around and notice the trees kc daming kausap na old classmates.

  28. corrine, yes they do. But you can also get kecap manis at Metro Supermarket in Market! Market!, Landmark grocery, sometimes at Unimart, and sometimes at the large Santis on Yakal street… Bea, I agree with you 100% on the Mcdonaldization of meals, and as such, the loss of traditional recipes, seasonal use of ingredients, etc. I feel like I am sometimes racing to document whatever I happen to run into in provincial forays as I fear they won’t continue for long!

  29. And you’re doing a great job! Often when I research I land on one of your pages. I’m on a race to collect and grow them naman… I really fear they will go away, sometimes people from the province don’t recognize the names in dialects anymore– or don’t remember seeing them in the last decade.

    So I go to the province (kahit beach trip lang) armed with cups for putting seedlings, empty sacks for seeds or cuttings… Dami na– trees, gingers, different kinds of betel leaf, etc. I don’t get to write about them too much, but I’m putting up a store in Jan (Makati) that will sell underutilized culinary herbs and potted plants, among other things.

    Talking Tongues (Indonesian resto) in San Agustin (near Apt 1B) has emping for sixty pesos a serving if you want some in Makati

  30. Moni..nakaktuwa naman at me taga Lb din pala dito bukod saken…so kabatch mo ba sila mam cel cadiz? mam suva? man sirley? mam velasco? mam vega? eh kilala mo ba si mang aga? hehehhe!!!e si dulay d’ librarian? o mas bata ka sa kanila? hehhehe! naks awardee si moni…hehhe…tambay ako ng devcom madami ako kaibigan na devcom major eh taga journ…hehhehe…

    Bea…some poi are served fresh..some are fermented…like the breadfruit poi or paste…
    Wow bea…ngayon palang kino congratulate na kita sa store mo that you’ll be opening two months from now…maganda kasi objective mo na iintroduce and to make use of our indigenous ..underutilized crops…maganda yan…tska masesave pa sila sa tuluyang pagkalipol! Great job Bea!…
    Bea pwede bang maging supplier ng indigenous fruits and herbs? hehhehe! Paabiso pag mag open kana…at baka makabisita ako.

  31. El-jefe, marami pang taga LB sa readers ni MM. Nandiyan si Ging na vet sa Cebu who went to LB for vetmed. Ang ka-batch ko sa grad skul at edad ay si tere stuart. Hahaha. Where are you based ba? Do you work around Laguna? Sus, ginawa na nating Facebook ang marketmanila.

    Pero ang topic ng post na ito ay kabisado ko kasi nagtrabaho at nagpabalik-balik ako sa Indonesia so kinakain ko ang tempe, krupuk & cassava chips ng West Java na di natin kayang gawin eh marami namang cassava dito. I think the Indonesians have cultivated the art of making chips and krupuk.

  32. Moni..oo nga ginwa nateng room to ng mga taga lb hehhehe…nagpapakahinahon nga ako dito eh di ko malabas ang ugali kong lb hehhehe…u knw wat i mean…hehhe…a teka panu kita iaaddress moni? me PO? hehhe kasi kabatch mo pala si MS. sTUART sabi nila Habito daw yun at mas matanda pa kina mam vega hehhehe….so anu PUNG batch nyo? hehe…Moni nakatikim kanaba ng Pisang Tongakat langit? un kulay pula na banana sa indonesia? upright un bunch? Fei banana un sa tahiti eh….nga pala laguna area ako…anu face book mo? hehhehe

    Bea…email? oo ba!san location ng shop mo?

  33. Makati.. it’s gonna be in an old car garage, San Antonio area that will be turned into a complex of small boutiques (sustainable furniture, cafe, old-style barber shop, reworked bicycles, graffiti supply store). I’ll post more info soon.. can you email me at yapakyakap@gmail.com? I’d be really happy to talk more and explore.. so few folks interested in this kind of stuff haha.

  34. el_jefe, just click on my name to take you to my blog. si lolit vega ay mas matanda pa sa amin ni tere habito-stuart. let’s continue sa FB baka i-block tayo ni MM. Well, nakatikim ka na ba ng zubuchon? I went to Cebu oct 24-25 to buy zubuchon and brioche, walnut-banana muffins, etc. from artisan.

  35. Yum! I used to to snack on Emping all the time when I used to live there! SM Megamall is so far! I wish there was a nearer source in Alabang.

  36. hi, mm – apa kabar? i had the opportunity to savor the simple taste of this kropek but in brunei where i used to work. i remember eating nasi goreng in the morning before working and eating it at the hospital staff kitchen overlooking the ocean- i remember it was only B$1.00 at that time and i think they used to wrap it in brown paper- i thought – hmm….it could be nice if some of our kababayans can also sell something like this but i guess we are a goto/tocino/tapsi/longsilog nation in the morning . maybe if you have a photo of nasi goreng – that would be nice. with the simple dilis side dish they put.hmm… missing malay food – esp the singa chicken rice,kueh lapis,nyonya dishes and the best beef rendang – my favorite which i used to order at the riverview hotel.

  37. So this was the krupuk “small crisp crackers with a bitter edge” I never liked when I was traveling in Indonesia. I did like tempe very much though, it’s a great protein substitute in case raw meat is hard to bring (ex. mountaineering trips sans refrigeration pack) or iffy (when taking life in your hands by dining from the cleanliness-challenged warungs in Jakarta/Bali, etc). Would anyone know where tempe or fermented soybeans can be bought in Metro Manila?

  38. Thanks MarketMan! I’ve been looking for a place where Emping is available– thank God I’ve come across your blog post about it. Emping is something that I really miss from my SG-Indonesia trip (and you would think that I’d miss the attractions or the beach more). But then I’d have to take a long bus ride to the MRT station to get to Megamall since I live in Cavite. Boohoo.

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