"With its hot, spicy, sweet and sour flavours, this Nyonya salad is particularly delicious with the addition of torch ginger flower," says Tony Tan. "Called bunga kantan in Malay, torch ginger is now grown in Queensland and the Northern Territory. It is sold frozen in many Asian grocers, but if you can't find it, this salad is still tasty without it. It uses two essential elements: dried shrimp and sambal belacan. Once you have these, you can virtually add any vegetable, such as okra or winged beans, and fruits including young papaya and mango, to make this delectable salad.
- 30 gm dried shrimp (see note), soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
- 1 torch ginger flower (see above)
- 2 Lebanese cucumbers
- 2 tbsp lightly toasted desiccated coconut
- Handful each of mint and coriander leaves, to serve (optional)
- 4-5 long red chillies, deseeded for a milder heat, coarsely chopped
- Juice of 2 limes, or to taste
- 1 tbsp caster sugar, or to taste
- 1Drain shrimp and crush with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- 2For the sambal belacan, grind chillies and roasted belacan to a fine paste with a mortar and pestle or small food processor. Transfer to a bowl with lime juice and sugar, and stir to combine.
- 3Pull off the first couple of petals of torch ginger and discard. If using a fresh flower, slice thinly crossways from the tip, otherwise peel off each petal from a frozen flower until you reach the core (discard core) and slice crossways.
- 4Halve cucumbers lengthways, and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Slice into 1.5cm pieces then mix well in a bowl with pounded shrimp and sambal belacan to taste. Add shredded torch ginger and toasted coconut and serve scattered with mint and coriander.
Dried shrimp, and belacan – a shrimp paste – are available from Asian grocers. To roast belacan, wrap in foil and roast at 180°C until pungent (10-15 minutes).