We love Asian food - quite fortunate really as we now find ourselves living in Asia... and we've been really enjoying sampling various dishes since we arrived (over 3 weeks ago now - how time flies). Eating out is cheap and easy, and Brunei is a real melting-pot of culinary cultures - Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai food are all easily available.
We do occasionally hit somewhat of a food-wall... most meals consist of noodles or rice, usually with chicken, and soy sauce. It's lovely, but it does make you crave chips after a while! (Which lead to the almost shameful sight of us gorging ourselves at the Yacht Club earlier this week with Rob ordering burger and chips, and me having steak 'n' kidney pie and chips!!)
However, inspired both by a dish that Paula had at a local restaurant and a cooking programme we caught on TV recently, we have discovered a Malaysian dish that contains neither noodles nor rice, but does contain loads of amazing fruit and vegetables, combined with a fantastically flavourful peanutty sauce - it's called Rojak.
Searching for Rojak recipes online I soon realised that everyone has their own recipe for it, and they're all slightly different, varying from country to country and doubtless from family to family too. The basis of the dish though is the same - a sort of savoury fruit and vegetable salad. It might not sounds appetising, but believe me it is, and it's also infinitely adaptable according to what fruit and veg you have.
We enjoyed a happy half hour together in the kitchen creating our own version of Rojak, which I attempted to document photographically...
We started by making the sauce. This basically contains shrimp paste, tamarind paste (gorgeous!), chili paste (which we didn't have - we used a chopped birdseye chili instead), oyster sauce, palm sugar and lime juice - a tablespoon of each. Blend together with about half a cup of water, and add a handful of crushed peanuts (or peanut butter apparently!) Next time I'll add a splash of soy sauce too.
It all looks a bit brown and sinister at this point...
We'd never used palm sugar before - it comes in hard blocks which you grate. It's delicious, with a real toffee-like sweetness.
Next came the heap of fruit and veg to chop...
We used green beans, baby corn, cucumber, apple and guava - but I found recipes that included pineapple and green (unripe) mango - which I'd like to try - too. We also bought some beancurd to add, as we had seen this on the cooking programme and fancied trying it.
If you've never seen a guava cut open (which I hadn't!) here's one. I peeled it and scooped out the seeds in the middle, then chopped it along with the rest of the fruit and veg.
Depending on the veg used you might blanch or cook it before adding to the Rojak, but we chose to keep it all raw as we love baby corn and beans as they are. It gave the dish a great crunch.
Rob chopped and deep-fried the beancurd. It went lovely and crispy - although when we do it again we'll coat it in seasoned flour before frying as it's rather bland.
Phew! All that mixing, chopping and frying calls for a G&T...
The final step is simply to mix the fruit and veg into the sauce, stirring well to coat eat piece. We topped it with the beancurd and some more chopped peanuts.
OK, it wouldn't win any beauty contests, but it really was delicious - healthy, fresh, crunchy, zingy and fiery (those chillies are HOT!) Definitely a success, and one we'll certainly be making again.