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Eats shoots and leaves

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lynne Truss would have no bone to pick with me for leaving out a comma in the title of my post. (For those who are curious and interested, here's the explanation for the title of her book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and a review.) It is a little predictable but in this instance, the title is so appropriate because here are three recipes for kerabu or Asian salads. I presume the pandas would like it too (again, a reference to her book.)

In kerabu, sambals or chilli-based pastes are used as dressings. Kerisik (pounded toasted grated coconut) too is often included.

There are, of course, as many ways to make these kerabu as there are edible plants and vegetables. These are three dishes that I put together one day when I was in the mood to toss things and to use my store cupboard and refrigerator staples like dried prawns, chillies, lime juice and kerisik. I was looking for a balance of sweet, sour and salty and I certainly got that delicious tanginess with these salads.

All recipes serve four.

Also called winged bean in English, the raw vegetable is often eaten with a sambal belacan (chilli and shrimp paste) dip.

200g four-angled beans
2 shallot, thinly sliced
2 bird's eye chillies, finely diced 
1 tablespoon dried prawns, washed and pounded
2 tablespoons grated coconut, toasted
2 tablespoons lime juice
1-2 tablespoons palm sugar
Salt to taste
  • Pick off the ends of the four-angled beans. Blanch in boiling salted water, about 30 seconds, then run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut on the diagonal into 2cm-wide pieces. Toss with the sliced shallots and chillies; set aside.
  • Combine the remaining ingredients and dress the vegetables.

This salad is loosely based on the Thai som tam. I am in awe of those lady hawkers who make this dish by the roadside in Bangkok. Green papaya has pale flesh; I didn't take a picture of the one I used in the kerabu. The half you see in the picture with the orange-coloured flesh has started to ripen. After peeling the skin, I only used the pale outer part of the flesh. The rest of the fruit can be eaten as is.

1 small green papaya (about 400g), peeled, cut into half and seeds removed
1 cup long beans, cut into 3cm lengths
1 tablespoon palm sugar
Juice of 2-3 limes, or to taste
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
6-8 bird's eye chillies, thinly sliced on an angle
1 tablespoon dried prawns, washed and pounded
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved and seeds removed
2-3 tablespoons chopped toasted peanuts
  • Grate papaya coarsely and into long strips.
  • To make the dressing, dissolve palm sugar in the lime juice. Add the fish sauce.
  • In a mortar and pestle, bruise the long beans. Add the chillies, dried prawns and some of the dressing. Toss well and add the papaya. Bruise the papaya so that it is mixed with the dressing. Add more dressing as needed.
  • Add the tomatoes and bruise them lightly, blending them with the rest of the ingredients. Serve sprinkled with chopped peanuts.
The fern shoots are usually blanched, but I didn't do that with my own dish as I thought they were tender enough. The option is, however, included in the recipe.
300g pucuk paku
50g fresh prawns, shelled and deveined
2 tablespoons ready-made kerisik
2-3 tablespoons coconut milk
2 large red chillies, pounded
2 tablespoons lime juice
2-3 teaspoons palm sugar
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons toasted peanuts, coarsely pounded
  • Pick off the tendrils and tender part of the stalks from the pucuk paku. Cut into 6cm pieces. If desired, blanch in boiling salted water, about 30 seconds, then run under cold water to stop the ferns cooking further.
  • Blanch the prawns until pink but still firm. Combine with the ferns.
  • Combine the rest of the ingredients and toss with the greens.

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