When we were living in Michigan, there were times when I seriously craved my hometown food. Rojak is one of them. The only way I could eat it was to make it myself. Rojak is a kind of vegetable/fruit salad that is dressed with a dark peanutty sauce with heh kor (aka prawn paste). Prawn paste was not easily found in Michigan. Then one day, somehow I found out that a mixture of fish sauce, black soy sauce and sugar kind of tasted quite close! After a few tweaks, I discovered how to make fake rojak sauce! Up to this day, this is my go-to recipe whenever we feel like rojak and are too lazy to go out and get it. It’s really a matter of assembling all the ingredients together. No cooking involved. Usually, in a basic rojak, there’s tau pok (dryish beancurd), chinese crullers (fried dough), pineapple, cucumber and sometimes even century egg. I only always have pineapple, cucumber and green apples at home. Thus, these are what I use in my rojak. You can add anything you like actually.
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp peanut butter
Juice from half a lemon
2 Tbsp ground peanut
cayenne pepper or chilli flakes to taste
Just mix the above together. Pour the sauce onto the fruits and toss only when ready to eat. Otherwise, it will get watery. Alternatively, I just dip my fruits and vegetables into the rojak sauce.
Of course this is not as good as the real thing. For one, it is missing ginger flower which gives it a really lovely fragrance. However, during desperate days in Michigan, it comes pretty close. That’s good enough for me.
I like zucchini even though it isn’t particularly tasty. In fact, the flavor is mild and rather bland. But it is a vegetable that is so quick to prep and so very versatile. Prepping zuke takes only a minute and it can be tossed into many things.
I get my zuke from the wet market. My green grocer usually charges me only a dollar for 2 or 3 zukes. It cost about 3-4 times more at the supermarkets. Usually when other customers see me choosing my zuke, they would ask me, how do you eat this? Some think it’s in the cucumber family coz of the similar shape and size. Not knowing what to do with it, most people just stay away from it.
There are 2 things I would tell them about zuke. First, it’s not from the cuke family. It’s from the squash family. Secondly, and more importantly, if it tastes bitter, do not eat it as it is then poisonous. I read recently that people have perished from consuming bitter zuke. You’d have to eat a lot of it to die, but I wouldn’t risk it. I have eaten a few slices of bitter zuke before. That was before I knew they were poisonous. Didn’t feel any ill effects from it though. So how would you know if the zuke you have is bitter? I’d usually cut a tiny sliver and taste it. No sense spoiling the whole pot.
So what can you do with zuke? This is how I would usually cook it:
- Slice them into 1/2″ pieces and stir-fry with garlic. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Easy and Yum.
- Cut them into chunks and toss them into spaghetti sauce/curry/soup. Boil until soft. Super simple.
- Grate 1/2 a zuke and squeeze out excess juice. Beat in an egg and pinch of salt. Pan fry for vege omelette.
- Grate them and use them as part of my fried spring roll filling.
- Grate them, squeeze out excess juice and toss into your muffin batter.
- Some people grate them into long strings and turn them into zucchini noodles.
The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. The only way I haven’t eaten them is raw.