Papeda is made from sago flour. The Papuan natives acquire the flour by felling the trunk of a sago tree, cutting it in half, and scraping the inner parts of the trunk. The trunk pulp is then mixed with water and squeezed to extract the starch-rich essence. The still moist sago flour is usually stored in a container made of sago palm leaflets, called tumang in which it will keep for several months before spontaneous fermentation will turn it too acidic and unsuitable for making papeda. Depending on the variety and the growing conditions, it may take a sago tree five to fifteen years to accumulate enough starch in its trunk to make the effort of extracting it worthwhile.
Papeda is made by cooking sago flour with water and stirring until it coagulates. It has a glue-like consistency and texture. Papeda is usually eaten with yellow soup made from mackerel, tuna or mubara fish spiced with turmeric and lime. Papeda sometimes also consumed with starchy tubers, such as boiled cassava and yam. Sayur bunga pepaya (papaya flower bud vegetables) and tumis kangkung (stir-fried water spinach) are often served as side dish vegetables to accompany papeda.
Natives of Seram island in Maluku cooking papeda in bamboo.
Using a special wooden fork called gata-gata to separate a serving from the bowl of 'papeda', a glue-like staple dish in West Seram, Maluku, Indonesia.
There are similar dishes in Malaysia, where it is called Linut, part of the Melanau cuisine in the East Malaysia state of Sarawak, and in Brunei, where it is called Ambuyat.
^Schuiling, D.L. (2009) Growth and development of true sago palm (Metroxylon sagu Rottbøll) with special reference to accumulation of starch in the trunk: a study on morphology, genetic variation and ecophysiology, and their implications for cultivation. (PhD thesis Wageningen University).