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Ulam redux

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I posted on kerabu (Asian salads) and nasi ulam (herbed rice) separately some time ago. For our National Day on Aug 31, IvyIndra and I are writing on the theme "Malaysia on a plate" for our Don't Call Me Chef cookery column in the newspaper. For me, the dish that screams Malaysia is nasi ulam, a mix of rice, fried fish, salted fish and prawns, toasted coconut and a whole bunch of herbs, shoots and leaves such as lemongrass, torch ginger, kaffir lime leaves, and various jungle plants.
For the column, I provided a recipe for Nasi Ulam Utara (Northern-style herbed rice; pictured below, top left) so as a prelude, I thought I would reproduce the recipes for the three types of kerabu that I wrote on before. These Malaysian salad dishes are prepared with similar ingredients to those found in a nasi ulam.
Clockwise from top left: Nasi Ulam Utara, served with sambal belacan; kerabu kacang botol; green papaya salad; and kerabu pucuk paku
All recipes serve 4.

Kerabu Kacang Botol (Four-angled Bean Salad)

200g four-angled beans
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 bird's eye chillies, finely diced
1 tbsp dried prawns, washed and pounded
2 tbsp grated coconut, toasted
2 tbsp lime juice
1-2 tbsp 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.

Green Papaya Kerabu
This salad is loosely based on the Thai som tam.

1 small green papaya (about 400g), peeled, cut into half and seeds removed
1 cup long beans, cut into 3cm lengths
1 tbsp palm sugar
Juice of 2-3 limes, or to taste
2-3 tbsp fish sauce
6-8 bird's eye chillies, thinly sliced on an angle
1 tbsp dried prawns, washed and pounded
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved and seeds removed
2-3 tbsp 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.

Kerabu Pucuk Paku (Fiddlehead Fern Salad)

300g pucuk paku (fern shoots)
50g fresh prawns, shelled and deveined
2 tbsp ready-made kerisik
2-3 tbsp coconut milk
2 large red chillies, pounded
2 tbsp lime juice
2-3 tsp palm sugar
Salt to taste
3 tbsp toasted peanuts, coarsely pounded

Pick off the tendrils and tender part of the stalks from the pucuk paku. Cut into 6cm pieces. If the ferns are a little tough, blanch in boiling salted water, about 30 seconds, then run under cold water to stop them 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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