Katurai, Katuray, Katuday / Corkwood Tree Flowers

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Katuray are the flowers of a small tree with light foliage (sesbania grandiflora) that thrives in arid and tough conditions, the often rather bitter tasting flowers (petals mostly) are a classic ingredient in Ilocano cooking. Along with ampalaya (bitter gourd) and other vegetables, they seem to mirror the tough conditions wrought by the geographical realities in the Ilocos region. I suspect many hundreds of years ago someone thought to cook katurai flowers for lack of better food alternatives… The tree is apparently native to this part of the world, some suggesting Indonesia as the epicenter of the species, and its flowers are enjoyed as food in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, etc. I have seen two colors of katuray in the markets, this pale greenish white and a more burgundy colored hue. At the markets this morning, I spotted a gorgeous pile of fresh katuray and purchased 250 grams worth for just PHP12. I had a dish in mind that I wanted to try it out.

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Eaten raw, the katuray flower is vile, bitter and astringent, it is worse than a big hunk of raw ampalaya (bitter gourd), in my opinion. I tried to blanch it once and serve it with some fish sauce and it was gross. Obviously I didn’t know what I was doing, but it did not bode well at all. However, I was convinced that this flower was “a diamond in the rough,” so I continued to experiment… always tempted to buy some when a fresh pile of flowers presents itself. Used as fodder for cattle and livestock elsewhere in the world, katuray is one of those ingredients that makes you truly wonder who first discovered it was edible, and were food choices so limited then, that they had to resort to eating this flower/vegetable?! Artichokes, in my opinion, would also fall into that category elsewhere on the planet. And who the heck figured saffron was so hot? At any rate, after several attempts, my use of katuray earlier today yielded utterly superb results, and the recipe is up in the next post, stay tuned…

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26 Responses

  1. I miss this vegie…haven’t had it for at least 10 years when i last visited my grandma’s house in Ilocos…i used to love it in dinengdeng…i wish i can buy this in melbourne…wishful thinking!

  2. When times are rough people need to be resourceful. I remember growing up in early 80’s, life was very hard. We had a lot of katuray trees in the neighborhood. When money is short, my mother will make “sungkit” some katuray flowers. She will then saute it with garlic, onions and sardines (in tomato sauce) with a little bit of patis and black pepper. It was delicious. I wouldn’t mind eating that right now. Yummy with a hot bowl of rice. Wish we have katuray here in HK :)
    Love your site! My day isn’t complete without going through your blog…..

  3. So THIS is what katuray looks like! My former officemates call me “Katu,” which was shortened from “katuray.” (Friends used to play around with my name all the time; I have several nicknames.) I had never heard of katuray till a friend called me that, so thanks, MM, for finally letting me see it. I’m not feeling this white katuray very much, though. I hope the burgundy one is more me. I didn’t even know until now that it was edible! I’m disappointed to learn it’s bitter. I’d have enjoyed the idea of being named after a delicious flower. :-) Then again, some people apparently find it good, so maybe I’m really an acquired taste. ;-)

  4. My grandmother used katuray in salads when I was younger but I wasn’t interested in veggies then. Now I wonder how it tastes…

  5. When I was a kid we used to have a katuray tree just outside the house and we often had a “salad” of pickled katuray flowers whenever the flowers were plentiful. I liked it but more for the rather kangkong-like crunchy texture as it had very little taste left after a quick blanch and then a short stint in a salt and vinegar mixture

  6. been trying to get some stalks here in south texas to plant in my backyard. but those who have them are not eager to share a piece of their plant. maybe they do not want to be caught and prosecuted for bringing in an unapproved plant specie.

    i tasted katuray before and liked the salad style. anything that is bitter must be good for diabetes and hypertension so that is good to keep ones kidney healthy.

  7. I’ve eaten a lot of katurays growing up in Ilocos. You have to remove the whole carpel (I don’t know if that’s the right term) that’s in the middle of the flower. It looks like a toothpick. I’ve never had a bitter katuray. Aside from the salad preparation you had in Vigan, we used to simply grill the unopened blossoms and put some vinegar and bagoong.

  8. Oww, this is how it looks. I am going to ask an office mate of mine (he is from Ilocos) how they will cook this. Although I have not find it in the Oriental store here in Houston. Like most blogger here, my day is not complete without surfing your site. Thanks for the info that you’ve share with us.

  9. Hey MarketMan,

    You can use this flower/vegetables in pinakbet or even in sinigang as suppose to kankong. As long as you remove the thing called stigma just like “LOU SAYS”. The stigma is the sticky surface at the top of the pistil inside the flower. I can’t wait for your next post. BTW How are you feeling after the “EMILAVA” scenario. I know it’s bridge over troubled water by now but, Just checking :-) Peaceeeee

  10. MarketMan, maayong aga…
    we call it gaway-gaway in ilonggo and did you know that here in my hometown of Mandurriiao, Iloilo City, we get this flower from the roadside for free. As a child, i remembered my lola cooking it with mongo beans and dilis, added with thick coconut milk.
    She also add it to her sinigang and the best of all is when she makes it into enchillada. Yesterday, i picked lots of gaway gaway flowers using a long ipil ipil stick from the tree which is growing in a farm just outside our house, hoping to cook it just wat lola did, and then post it in my blog, too.

  11. can it be used as the bulaklak ng kalabasa? i have once tasted a salad made of those yellow flowers and they tasted ok.. wonder how this would taste..

  12. We use to have this a lot when we were kids. My dad loved it as a salad and also sauted with sardines or with some other veggies. Our neighbor had a tree and my siblings and I would make sungkit the flowers. I recall my mom taking off the hard stigma or pistil that’s why I proably never recalled eating bitter katuray. My officemates laugh at me when I tell them the flower is edible. Hah, got to show them this post.

  13. One can see the katuray trees lining up some of the roadsides here in Brunei. It’s a pretty site with the trees laden with white flowers. Here it is considered ornamental. But of course our kababayans here know otherwise so at times, one can see people plucking the flowers. Without much question, they are Filipinos!

  14. Am so happy to finally know what the English translation is for Katuray……great thing to work with….happy anniversary.

  15. Lucky for me there are several katuray trees in the vacant lots in the subdivision adjacent to ours. We would normally pluck its flowers after our weekend jogging and make it into a nice salad with tomatoes, onions and vinegar dressing. Sarap with grilled liempo and/or fish!

    In my cousin’s backyard in Bulacan there is a viloet variety. Could it be one and the same as the burgundy type? No one harvests its flowers kasi katuray is not popular in our hometown. I also have not tried to make it into a salad yet kasi hindi ko pa alam kung edible din yun.

  16. KATURAY (among Tagalogs)is GAWAY-GAWAY in my native province of Romblon (I’m from the town of San Agustin). It’s main use in my native place is as follows: the “kinayod” (shredded) bark of the tree is rubbed against the entire length of the cotton fishing line (when nylon fishing lines were not yet available). The cotton fishing line is then dried in the sun. Result: The fishing line becomes durable and its “lifespan” (period of usability as such) is duly extended.Another use: Because it is easy to reproduce it by just planting any of its branch into the ground, it is good as fences just like the tuba-tuba (jatropha). During flowering periods it is a good place where to watch for and shoot (with a sling shot o airgun) the bats at moonless nights. The bats are fond of the nectar of its flowers.The bat meat is very delicious as adobo!

  17. An indian colleague brought several small branches of this tree in the office. She will give it to another colleague who will cook the leaves and the flowers. I recognise the katuray flower since we have it in our backyard and my father will blanch it for lunch.
    They were quite surprised that I am familiar with the flower. But I was astonished to know that they eat the leaves as well. They say it has a stronger taste than the malunggay leaves.

  18. I never tasted katuray flowers but you gave me an idea what to do with it when I find one. Weeee! Thanks for this wonderful post.

  19. Hi!,
    1 lived in Thailand and this flowering tree is seen everywhere.
    In Thailand, the flowers are cooked in a spicy broth called gaeng som or poached to be eaten with a spicy shimp paste dip. Yes! it’s bitter, you have to remove the stigmas before cooking. It’s delicious and nutrious. 1 enjoy your blog very much. Keep up the good job.
    May

  20. Hi Marketman!

    Wow. So these REALLY are being eaten as food. Hehehe. I’ve only recently been introduced to it here at home (I thought it was just some weed they convinced me to eat). We often have this as a salad as “sonny sj” mentioned. I just stumbled on your site while looking for the English name of this, flower.

    Wonderful site! Kudos!

  21. Yes katuday is good. We have that color red flower of katuray in our backyard. I also have that seedling of this color and I shared to my officemates last month. According to my office mate they are bearing flowers right now, color red too. Next time I will include a picture of this red color so that you can see.

  22. I made a new recipe using katuray last week….. believe me, it’s really original and masarap. I made my daughter use the recipe for her class and the recipe won (despite it’s simplicity). I can’t reveal the recipe yet, not until my daughter’s teacher is done with it…. they intend to use the recipe as an entry to a contest….. I hope it wins.

  23. MM remove the anther and filaments and other bitter flower parts inside it …you blanch it in a salted water drain and squeeze to remove the bitter taste…top it with ” bagoong isda” chopped shallots, salad tomatoes. the salad is best paired with grilled catfish or pritong isda. It is also perfect for ” ilokano pinakbet” with grilled ”hito” added to the stew…

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