Spicy Salads
By Gisele Turner | Thu, 28 September 2017

Home improvement vegetarian cooking

A trip to visit family in Singapore and in Ningbo, China, turned my taste buds on their heads. The summer heat demanded cool foods dressed with spicy, tangy sauces, with generous use of roasted peanuts and sesame seeds for extra crunch. Quite a few of the ingredients are not readily available here, but by using some oriental sauces (check that they have no dried shrimp), and our local fruits and vegetables, I can close my eyes and dream of the Far East…

Vegan Rojak 
This totally delicious combination of fresh fruits and crunchy vegetables tossed in a sweet spicy dressing had me going back to the buffet spread for more. I have substituted some of the ingredients with local produce, so this is not a classic Malaysian Rojak, but so yummy you will be making platters of it this summer. 
For the dressing you will need two teaspoons of red chilli paste; 50 grams of palm sugar (no substitute, and it’s easy to find); 1 tablespoons tamarind juice;  the juice of a small lime; 2 tablespoons soya sauce; and one tablespoon golden syrup. Mix these together well in a blender, then add a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds and a half cup of freshly roasted peanuts, nibbed or crushed. 
Slice all the fruit and veg into bite-sized pieces; the Malaysian fashion is not so much for cubes as uneven chunks. I use English cucumber; sweet pineapple; very crispy apples (Fuji variety is best); very young turnips or radish. When in season, fresh green mango is ideal and you can also add some unripe pawpaw for extra crunch - grate the latter coarsely. Place your dressing in a bowl, toss the veg and fruit chunks in the sauce, sprinkle with more crushed peanuts and serve immediately! 

Minty Green & White Cabbage Slaw 
This salad is a cleanser of note, getting digestive juices working and providing lots of good roughage. I make use of the spring vegetables, fennel and celeriac root, and match the veg flavours with sweet, crisp apple slices. Chop a portion of white cabbage and place in a salad bowl. Clean and slice the fennel bulb, discarding the outer layer which can be stringy. Clean, de-string and slice four celery sticks. Peel and slice half a celeriac. Peel and slice the apple - fine slices add interesting texture. You can also add cucumber sticks; it’s nice to keep this salad green and white. Chop up a small bunch of fresh mint leaves and scatter over the veg. For the dressing, combine the juice of a lime with sea salt; black pepper, ground; and a teaspoon of Korean hot pepper flakes (smoked chilli flakes are also good, but avoid using chilli powder, it really doesn’t do the trick.) Add some olive oil or avocado oil. Mix your salad and leave for a few minutes for all the flavours to blend. This is a fabulous change from the boring old mayo coleslaw to go with the summer braais! 

Crunchy Asian Salad 
This colourful salad with its sweet and sour dressing is just totally delish. Use a Chinese cabbage, choosing a nice tight fresh one. They are often sold cut in half, which is ideal for small family use. Splash out on a punnet of snow peas or snap peas. You will also need some sweet crunchy carrots; a firm red capsicum; some fresh coriander; fresh mint; and pickled ginger slices. The dressing requires both the juice and zest of a lime; a red chilli, chopped; some brown sugar (or palm sugar); and a clove of garlic, crushed. Place all those ingredients, as well as sea salt to taste, in a small jar and shake until nicely mixed - you can adjust according to your capacity for heat. Pour over the sliced vegetables and toss well. Finish off with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. As kids often don’t like spicy foods, you can also leave out the chilli and serve a small bowl of fresh chopped chillies for adult taste. Enjoy!

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