Category Archives: Salad

Wanderlust: Yangon, first impressions, pomelo salad

Yangon-03Yangon-02

My taxi wound its way through an endless arterial road. We were heading towards Yangon downtown. Whenever the car stopped, which was often, I fanned myself – in vain – with the city walking map I found at the airport.

It felt like 90% humidity and close to 40C (100F). This is not Sydney winter anymore.

I was travelling alone, going into a country that I knew almost nothing about. When we were flying into the airport, I looked out the window and saw rice paddies, with golden stupas (pagodas) that stood out for miles around. If I were a child, I would have held my breath from sheer excitement. I whispered to myself, I am looking at a Burmese stupa. I am in Myanmar. I am a traveller in Myanmar. Exotic, humid, colourful, unknown Myanmar.

The taxi wound its way past concrete walls inscribed with the curly, circular Burmese script. Past men and women wearing longyis. Past a school where girls and boys wore white shirts and green longyis. Past more people, fruit stalls, durians, traffic, and there was my hotel.

Yangon-04Yangon-05Yangon-06Yangon-07

That afternoon was a jumble of noise and wires and food stalls and people and more moments of holding my breath – as I walk between street stalls, past more durians, into the traffic to cross the road. Streets of British colonial-era buildings, decaying before my eyes, fern and moss reclaiming them for the swamp that Yangon was built on. Footpaths covered by street stalls, pedestrians walking, fearless, slow and longyi-clad, on the road.

Yangon-01

Continue reading

It’s (not) easy being green: Burmese green mango salad

green-mango-salad-01

It’s not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold…
or something much more colorful like that.

This song could have been written for young mangoes, as they slowly grow on mango trees, nestled in the mango flowers (!), blending in with the leaves and other ordin’ry things.

green-mango-01green-mango-02

As we go into late summer, mangoes ripen, and take on the colours of red, or yellow or gold. They become such a luscious fruit, the essence of summer, humidity, sun, and heat like a warm blanket.

But each year, part of me looks back nostalgically on the green mangoes, appearing in the markets so briefly, like that moment between spring and summer. Green mangoes that are fresh and cool, rather than heady-tropical. As Kermit might have said:

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green’s the color of green mangoes.
And green can be crunchy and sweet-sour-like.*

* with apologies for the textual travesty

green-mango-salad-02

This year’s green mango season, I made the green mango salad from Naomi Duguid’s book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor.

Continue reading

Sun-drenched fig and zucchini salad

beach-06

I have been flirting with thoughts of other jobs, other countries. The big wide world, new faces, a different smell in the air. Maybe that travel bug rearing its head again.

These thoughts – idle fancies, what you will – are unsettling yet exciting. Unexpectedly they have also prompted me to look at my street, city, country with fresh eyes.

beach-02

Like the layers of light on a humid summer’s beach. So bright, impossibly bright, up close. Shimmering-pale-lilac-blue in the distance, the colours muted as though coming through a fog.

Cliched as it might be, this made me think of Dorothy Mackellar’s iconic poem as she describes –

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –

beach-03

Wilful, with our legends of outlaws, and 146km of dead straight road across the Nullabor. Lavish, with super-abundant light, and summer’s fresh produce that seem to be ripening by the minute: berries, peaches, watermelons, figs, mangos, papayas, zucchinis, beetroot, okra.

During these hot, humid, languid days, summer fruit and veges can make the simplest snacks or meals. Like mangoes with a squeeze of lime and a splash of hot sauce; cucumbers with salt-smashed garlic, experiments with watermelon curry, Vietnamese pickled daikons.

Like this fig and zucchini salad.

fig-salad-06

Continue reading

A tale about kale: kale salad with raisins, walnuts and pecorino

kale-walnut-salad-03

Here I am, on a Monday night, trying to think of a witty, captivating way to introduce a kale salad. I could wax lyrical about its impressive pedigree: from Barbuto in NY via Deb Perelman’s kitchen to yours truly. I could go all food anthropology on you and talk about the similar ingredients found in pasta or even bread from that island off Italy (disclaimer: only in the world according to Google).

Or, I can just sit back and tell you about this salad – the flavours, textures, ideas.

Because, this way, I won’t have to talk about how this is yet another kale salad. I can just say – this salad doesn’t make me feel like I’m eating grass. Grass is virtuous to be sure, and good for moo-cows, but I prefer my grass a little more mediated by cows, say in the form of pecorino cheese.

Then, I can tell you the salad is savoury, sweet, tart. These bold flavours complement (but not mellow) kales earthiness – think Ottolenghi’s way with radicchio in Plenty. The textures vary between lemon-softened kale, plumped raisins, crunchy walnuts and crumbly-creamy pecorino.

I’ve served variations of the salad at two elaborate dinners, a Moroccan/Sicilian epic, and our similarly epic Christmas lunch. Both times, it was hoovered up, with people asking about it as they peered into the salad bowl for more.

kale-walnut-salad-04
Continue reading

Meditation: sesame carrot greens from a Japanese temple

carrot-top-japanese-a

 

Shōjin ryōri:
Japanese Buddhist temple cuisine. Devotional cuisine.

 

berowra3 sml

Sydney CBD and Inner West has a range of places for Japanese cuisine, ranging from high end restaurants, sushi trains (remember when they were all the rage?), izakaya-style bars, to food court vendors famous for their ramen. Yet, I had not encountered Japanese Buddhist cuisine.

When I made a carrot and beet slaw a couple of weeks ago, I ended up with what seemed like a mountain of beet greens and carrot tops. Looking at the carrot tops, I remembered a recipe from Melissa Clark’s website for carrot greens with sesame dressing. The recipe stuck in my mind because it came from a book written by an Abbess from a Zen (Buddhist) temple, featuring vegan recipes in the Zen tradition. 

Melissa described making this dish as an almost an act of devotion or meditation, because it took so long to prepare a small amount of vegetables. It was, indeed, an exercise in patience; along the way, it became also a revelation in finding the perfect balance of flavours in the simplest rituals.

The carrots were pulled from the ground that morning, so the carrot greens had hidden pockets of dirt – healthy, hearty dirt, that played hide-and-seek while I tried to wash them out of the carrot greens. After washing, came blanching. After blanching, a quick bath of iced water. After that, soaking in 2-3 changes of cold water overnight to rid the greens of some of their bitterness.

Finally, a simple dressing of white sesames, soy, sugar and mirin.

carrot-top-japanese-b

Continue reading

Beetroot and carrot and a feast of colours

bittenword-cover2cover-1

The past two weeks have been mildly crazy. We went to the theatre, had lunches and dinners with friends, I dutifully attended ‘networking’ events (where older men in black suits huddle with other black suits…), got excited about Good Food Month in October, and felt a general festive restlessness as Sydney finally burst into spring madness.

In the midst of this, I got my cooking assignment for the Bitten Word Cover to Cover Challenge 2013. In this challenge, we are each assigned one recipe from the September issue of Bon Appétit magazine, so that as a group, we will have made all 47 recipes in the magazine.

I sign up for these things to widen my cooking & baking horizons. Cover to Cover was no exception. The recipe was one of the simplest I have attempted, and not the type of recipe I blog about. Yet, once I started, the minimalist recipe made me really pay attention to the colours, textures and flavours of the ingredients. Making a simple recipe became a feast for the senses.

bittenword-cover2cover-3

The recipe is carrot and beet slaw with pistachios and raisins. In the original recipe, carrots and beetroot are julienned, mixed in garlic-flavoured lemon juice, golden raisins, chilli, parsley, mint, and toasted pistachios.

Bon Appétit ‘s photo was a riot of colours. Red and golden beetroot, orange-red carrots, matchsticks of summer tumbling over one another to create a festive whole. It was a beautiful chaos; a styled, self consciously casual, beautiful chaos. Continue reading