Eat To Live

A salad to win over vegetable haters

Stay cool in the heat with a healthy guava dish rich in vitamins and antioxidants


We all know someone like that - the person who will not eat anything green.

He will pick out and set aside all the green garnishes and even the bean sprouts from his noodles because they are vegetables.

But then he may eat fruit, for it is sweet and offers the excuse that it provides him with the vitamins and fibre he needs.



    • 2 large Thai guavas, julienned

    • 2-4 large red chillies, sliced

    • ½ head of iceberg salad, roughly shredded

    • 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced

    • 1 tbsp of dried shrimp, rinsed quickly and pounded

    • 1 stalk of coriander with roots; use the leaves only, and reserve the roots for the dressing

    • 1 stalk of mint, leaves only

    • A handful of roasted cashews


    • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

    • 3-4 red chilli padi, seeds discarded, finely chopped

    • 1 coriander root, finely chopped

    • Juice from 1 large green lime or more to taste

    • 2-4 tbsps of fish sauce

    • 2 tbsps of sugar or to taste

    • ½ cup of cold water


    • Make up the dressing by mixing garlic, chillies, coriander root, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and water in a bowl. Adjust to individual taste.

    • Add the shredded guava and lettuce and mix well with the dressing in a mixing bowl.

    • Remove dressed salad to a serving bowl, and top with pounded dried shrimp, onion, mint and coriander leaves.

    • Garnish with cashew nuts and serve.


For him and others like him, this guava salad is, well, just shredded fruit. Indeed, the person who avoids vegetables on his plate could, however, eat such a salad composed of fruit.

While I use guava here, there is nothing to prevent you from using, say, jambu or rose apples, kiwi fruit, or even green apples in a similar manner.

While I use guava here, there is nothing to prevent you from using, say, jambu or rose apples, kiwi fruit, or even green apples in a similar manner. But guava is an excellent choice for it is a very healthy fruit, whether you eat it on its own or in a salad. It is also subtly sweet, perfect for a savoury dish.

But guava is an excellent choice for it is a very healthy fruit, whether you eat it on its own or in a salad.

It is also subtly sweet, perfect for a savoury dish.

Nutrient-wise, it is high in dietary fibre, and extremely rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C.

It provides four times the amount of vitamin C of, say, pineapple, which already provides more than 100 per cent of the daily value of vitamin C in a serving.

And vitamin C helps the body build up resistance to infection, while scavenging free radicals that could cause serious illnesses.

Guavas have potassium too, more per serving than even a banana.

All good news, but I just like it in a salad because it makes a good complement to a Thai meal, which I serve from time to time.

It is ideal especially during this hot and humid season when cool crunch is all I want to help the food go down. And no cooking is needed here, perfect during this heat wave.

The recipe follows that of the famed som tam or Thai green papaya salad, which employs a fish sauce dressing or nam pla prik, and savoury additions of dried shrimp and nuts on top.

I also add lettuce to balance out the sweetness and the savouriness of everything else.

As for the nuts, I use roasted cashews rather than the peanuts often found in Thai food. But you could use any nut that you have on hand.

I do not believe in going out to buy something special for a recipe and merely add what I have on hand.

Similarly, while I pound the dried shrimp mentioned in the recipe, you could leave them whole for a more full-bodied bite. If you are using them whole, do roast them a little first to add fragrance and texture.

And, yes, do consider the colours found in a salad bowl.

The large Thai guava used here is a pretty light green colour, to which I add some red chillies to add liveliness and contrast to the bowl as well as some deep green mint and coriander leaves for the same reason.

While only the coriander leaves are used for the salad, do not throw away the roots as they flavour the dressing.

Beyond that, you just have to worry about shredding the fruit with its skin on to ensure even more vitamins in the bowl.

I use a very sharp vegetable shredder for this purpose and look with envy at my friend's helper who is a nab hand with the knife and juliennes the fruit by hand in minutes.

  • 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.

Nutrition-packed, but go easy on fish sauce

Guava is a low caloric fruit and is an excellent source of vitamin C.


  • (Per Serve - 286g)

    Energy: 164kcal

    Protein: 6.6g

    Total fat: 3.8g

    Saturated fat: 0.9g

    Dietary fibre: 8.5g

    Carbohydrate: 30.4g

    Cholesterol: 10mg

    Sodium: 711mg

A 100g serving of guava gives us only 68kcal and 228mg of vitamin C, which is three times the amount of vitamin C in 100g of oranges.

It is also fibre-rich, giving us 18 per cent of our daily fibre requirement or 5.4g per 100g.

Iceberg lettuce is not as nutritious as other vegetables like kale, but it has minimum amounts of calories and carbohydrates. It is also fat free, which is ideal for weight watchers or those who count their calories.

The large red chilli (chilli pepper) is a good source of B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and iron. For example, a 100g serving of red chilli provides about 144mg or 150 per cent of our daily vitamin C requirement.

Dried shrimp and cashews are a good source of protein. Just a tablespoon of dried shrimp (7g) gives us about 4.1g of protein and a handful of cashews (30g) gives us 4.6g of protein.

Dried shrimp is also high in calcium, with 100g of it giving us 991mg of calcium.

This recipe can be made healthier by reducing the amount of fish sauce used because 1 tbsp of it contains 1,013mg of sodium while our sodium intake recommendation is no more than 2,000mg per day.

Bibi Chia

Principal dietitian, Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'A salad to win over vegetable haters '. Subscribe