Eat To Live

Spice up that raw veggie salad with sambal

PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

With spicy dressings, salads are no longer healthy but boring

A trip to Bali got me rethinking my salads. I usually eat them with vinaigrette dressing as it balances the sour, salty and sweet tastes.

It comes from adding either vinegar or lemon, salt or light soya sauce, and a bit of sugar or honey, into an oil base.

For creamy salads, I add a dollop of sour cream or mayonnaise to the dressing for unadorned vegetables, left raw.

A scattering of nuts, crisp bacon bits or hard-boiled egg adds richness, protein and crunch.

All very good, but without spice.

  • BALINESE LAWAR

  • INGREDIENTS

    1 bunch long beans, snapped into shorter pieces

    1 packet French beans, snapped into shorter pieces

    2 to 3 cups bean sprouts

    1 packet baby spinach leaves

    DRESSING

    ¼ cup oil

    1 Tbsp belacan (shrimp paste)

    4 red chillies, sliced

    1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly

    4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly

    1 tsp salt

    2 calamansi limes, halved

    GARNISHES

    ½ cup roasted grated coconut

    Fried shallots

    Shredded kaffir lime leaves

    METHOD

    Prepare the vegetables and bring a small pot of salted water to the boil.

    When the water is boiling, add the vegetables and dunk them in the water a couple of times.

    Drain and stop the cooking process by rinsing the vegetables in cold water.

    Drain and leave aside.

    Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and saute the belacan till lightly browned.

    Add the onions, garlic and chilli and allow these to wilt in the hot oil.

    Season with salt to taste. Leave aside.

    Place the vegetables on a plate.

    Add the spicy oil, wilted chilli, onions and garlic, and toss.

    Garnish generously with roasted coconut and shallots, and serve with the lime halves.

    Before eating, add a squeeze of lime juice and toss.

    SERVES TWO TO FOUR

For a palate accustomed to spice, salad is boring, though healthy, as it is full of greens, left uncooked for maximum nutrition.

If you are someone who eats for health, that is no matter, but most of us hanker for the tastes that tantalise.

And this is where the Balinese Lawar comes in. This is a salad that would appeal to those who do not like raw veggies, love spice, prefer a non-creamy dressing and yet want some richness in the bowl.

While the traditional recipe may include some chicken or pig's blood curd, the lawars I ate in Bali were vegetarian ones.

Most have an assortment of vegetables in the bowl, all lightly boiled.

They rely on a dressing that includes chilli or a sambal, which appeals to those who love spicy food, and have a scattering of roasted coconut and shallots for a rich mouth feel.

They were surprisingly tasty, which is unusual for a salad that is often included to fulfil the green quotient for a meal.

The spicy dressing makes a lively difference, as do the roasted garnishes of coconut and shallots.

If you think that this takes too much effort, the roasted shallots can be bought off the shelf.

The roasted coconut is merely fresh grated coconut bought from the wet market and roasted till golden, and mixed with some salt. It keeps for ages in a bottle, to be dipped into again and again.

In my version of lawar, I relied on a dressing spiked with lightly sauteed red chilli, garlic and onion.

You can add turmeric, if you like, as it is found in many recipes.

But I wanted a simpler taste for my lawar. So I used only four vegetables - bean sprouts, long beans, French beans and baby spinach from a packet - to cut down on prep time.

And since I have a limau purut (or kaffir lime) plant at home, I shredded a fresh leaf over everything as a final fragrant flourish. Leave it out if it is inconvenient.

Lawar has become my favourite salad, for who can resist green leaves dressed with a sambal.

It can be eaten as a main course or as part of a balanced meal. It is an ideal choice when you are looking for ways to get more greens in your diet.

•Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous Eat To Live recipes can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.


High calorie content due to oil and coconut

A delicious Balinese Lawar salad can get you eating more greens, which is a good thing.

However, you may have to watch your intake of this seemingly healthy dish. The calorie content is high, due to the amount of cooking oil and coconut used.

To give you an idea, one cup of cooking oil provides 2,033 calories and one cup of dessicated coconut provides 600 calories. These calories are from fat.

  • NUTRITION INFORMATION

  • (per serving: 249g)

    Energy: 706kcal

    Protein: 4.8g

    Total fat: 72.9g

    Saturated fat: 17.4g

    Cholesterol: 1mg

    Carbohydrate: 7.6g

    Dietary fibre: 9.6g

    Sodium: 686mg

    Jaclyn Reutens

    Dietitian, Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants

You can use half of that amount of oil and coconut to improve the nutritional value.

Dressings are meant to add a touch of flavour and not overpower the dish.

So go easy on the dressing - one tablespoon for 150g of any vegetable mix will be enough to lightly coat it.

This dish uses shrimp paste, which is a fermented shrimp extract that is usually mixed with chilli. It is high in sodium and purines, which is not ideal for those suffering from high blood pressure and gout.

As it is not the healthiest of ingredients, a small amount would be enough to get the desired flavour.

If you want to eat your vegetables raw, wash them thoroughly to avoid food contamination.

The fibre content remains the same for both cooked and raw vegetables. Cooking them will help break down the fibres so that they can be digested faster.

Just cook them briefly, for three to five minutes, in a small amount of hot liquid, so that the water- soluble vitamins will not be lost.

Do ensure that your diet has a mixture of cooked and raw vegetables so as to get the optimum nutrients.

If you suffer from indigestion or bloatedness, it is best to blanch your vegetables before eating as this helps to break down some of the indigestible fibres.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2016, with the headline 'Spice up that raw veggie salad with sambal'. Print Edition | Subscribe