WHEN people go on diets, they opt for salads. But the kind of salads I eat only make me pile on more rice on my plate. I like Western salads, but I don’t make or eat them all that often. The kind of salad I make is called kerabu – it also uses raw vegetables, but the dressing couldn’t be more different.
Both my grandmothers made kerabu. My paternal grandmother’s kerabu was simpler; more like a dish she puts together with whatever is available. My maternal grandmother – a Nyonya who wore sarung – recalled frying kerisik (fried grated coconut) to go into her kerabu.
The basics of a kerabu dressing in my family’s kitchen is kalamansi lime juice, shallots, sugar and either sambal belacan (a Malay condiment made by pounding red chilli with shrimp paste) or bird’s eye chilli; for the spicy-sweet-sour flavours that whet the appetite and get the tongue tingling.
We always have a jar of sambal belacan at home, so it was a matter of deciding what vegetables we want to use.
One of the easiest kerabu to make is kerabu timun – made with cucumbers, dried shrimps and sambal belacan. It’s nice to add pineapples too if you have them. You can also add prawns to this kerabu.
I can eat loads of rice with just a plate of kerabu timun, and they are easy and quick to make if you have sambal belacan. If you don’t, just substitute with chilli, preferably the most fiery one you can get.
1 big cucumber, deskinned, deseeded and quartered
1 teaspoon of salt
3-4 shallots, sliced thinly
Juice from 4-5 kalamansi limes, or accdg to taste
1 tablespoon of sambal belacan
1 tablespoon of sugar, or accdg to taste
2 tablespoons of dried shrimp, soaked in hot water, drained and pounded lighty
1/2 bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), sliced thinly (optional)
Salt the cucumbers, and leave aside for ten minutes. Then, drain.
In a bowl, add the shallots to the kalamansi lime juice. Leave for five minutes.
Then, add sugar and sambal belacan. Mix.
To make the kerabu, add the dressing and dried shrimps to the cucumbers and mix thoroughly. Garnish with bunga kantan