Eat To Live

Give leftover turkey some oomph with sambal

Gutsy flavour of turkey meat in sambal sure to please South-east Asian taste buds

Spicy Turkey Wraps.
Spicy Turkey Wraps.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

The poor turkey. It doesn't deserve its reputation. Despite being the star of two major festivals, Thanksgiving and Christmas, it still is not the bird of choice when it comes to eating outside these seasons.

And yet there is much to recommend it if you are religiously into healthy eating, like my husband.

Each time, he will choose not what takes his fancy, but what is healthiest on the menu, when eating out, often ending up with the same dish throughout the year! If turkey is on the menu, it will invariably be his meat of choice.

He knows that it is a lean meat, with a subtle flavour that does not overpower the palate.

Actually, turkey is full of vitamins and minerals - B6 and B12, niacin, choline, selenium and zinc.

Using turkey for a wrap is a recipe that even indifferent turkey eaters will love. The leftover turkey meat, shredded first, is dressed with a fulsome chilli sambal that brings lots of oomph to this bland meat.

And even then, my husband will choose the breast rather than the dark meat, which, hurray, tends to contain more vitamins and minerals, but admittedly also has more fat and calories.

And this Christmas will see us having turkey over and over again for it will feature on many menus, including the main family Christmas dinner or lunch. Which means leftovers, lots of it.

But leftovers are part of the reason I like having a turkey for Christmas, for the meat can be used in so many ways afterwards.

Of course, you can just make a turkey sandwich with it or add it to a salad, but I prefer more interesting ways of using it up.

Like making a turkey gumbo, a hearty Louisiana soup with rice and okra that nicely uses up both the carcass and the leftover meat. I make this warm, comforting one-pot meal every year, for it is perfect for the rainy season and convenient during this busy time.

But this year, I will first save some of the leftover meat for a turkey wrap and leave just the carcass for the pot.

Using turkey for a wrap is a recipe that even indifferent turkey eaters will love. The leftover turkey meat, shredded first, is dressed with a fulsome chilli sambal that brings lots of oomph to this bland meat.

I serve this mouth-popping mixture on a lettuce leaf and top it with cucumber, tomato and lots of fresh herbs, making it even healthier.

It turns the meat into a gutsy mouthful and you can make the sambal in advance so that it becomes easy to just heat it through after Christmas before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

No worries about overcooking the meat, for you merely warm it in that chilli dressing; or about it being too dry, for the chilli and its oil add a sparky juiciness to the meat.

This is truly leftover turkey made for our South-east Asian taste buds.

  • 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.



    3-4 cups turkey meat, leftovers from a roasted turkey

    10-12 red chillies (seeds removed, if you do not like too much heat)

    2 medium-sized onions, cut into quarters

    3 cloves of garlic, peeled



    Shred the roast turkey meat, tearing it up into smaller strips, if needed. Leave aside.

    To make the spice paste, place chillies, onions, garlic and belacan in a food processor and chop till they are fine.

    Heat the oil in a wok and brown spice paste over low heat until fragrant and caramelised.

    Add a bit of water if it seems too dry. What you are aiming for is a thick sauce with lovely red chilli oil in it.

    Season with salt and sugar, to taste. Toss the shredded meat in this chilli dressing and heat it through.

    Serve the spiced turkey separately, together with lettuce leaves, cucumber, tomato and fresh herbs, for diners to help themselves to.

    To eat, simply place a dollop of dressed turkey meat on a lettuce leaf. Top with a tomato slice and a cucumber slice. Add some shredded kaffir lime leaves for extra fragrance and some basil and coriander leaves on top.

    1 tbs belacan (shrimp paste)
    2 tbs oil (I use either olive or peanut, both mainly monounsaturated oils)
    1 tsp salt or to taste
    1 tsp sugar
    20 lettuce leaves (butter, romaine or iceberg), left whole
    1 cucumber, sliced to obtain 20 slices
    4 tomatoes, sliced to obtain 20 slices
    Garnishes (optional)
    Coriander leaves
    Basil leaves
    Kaffir lime leaves, shredded finely

Make it healthier

Turkey is considered a leaner source of animal protein.

To make the dish even healthier, remove the extra fat and skin, and go easy on the gravy.

The use of spices is also a plus point, for they are a healthier alternative to condiments like salt, pre-packaged sauces and sugar.

Sugar, for instance, packs calories while eating too much salt may lead to high blood pressure and other serious health ailments.

Using lettuce leaves to wrap the meat also means fewer calories than if you were to use bread or flour- based wraps.

However, if you are preparing this as a main meal, some carbohydrates may be ideal. Where possible, choose whole grains - for instance, wholegrain wraps, beans, chickpeas and starchy vegetables.

In addition, adding a variety of vegetables ensures that you get different nutrients as well as fibre in your diet.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (Per 90g serving of roasted turkey)

Calories: 171kcal

Protein: 26g

Total fat: 6.7g

Saturated fat: 2g

Cholesterol: 99mg

Bibi Chia
Principal dietitian, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Leftover turkey with oomph? It's a wrap'. Subscribe