Rojak (Malaysian fruit salad)

Rojak is a widely available hawker food in Malaysia. It is a burst of sweet, spicy and tangy flavours mixed in with fresh pineapples, cucumber, jicama and tofu. The different ingredients give the dish the range of textures and sweetness. Fruit rojak is very different from Mamak rojak (pasembur), which comes with prawn fritters, vegetables, hard-boiled egg, and topped off with thick peanut sauce. Incidentally, the word ‘rojak’ is ‘mix’ in Malay, and is used frequently as an adjective, such as ‘ They are speaking rojak, mixing languages together’, which incidentally, is how Malaysians normally speak.

Rojak paste (sambal) is made from sweet soy sauce, prawn paste, belacan (fermented shrimp paste), sugar, lime and chillies. However, there is no seafood taste at all. Luckily, there is very good rojak sambal paste available (I purchased mine from E-PACS in East Tamaki), which makes this moreish dish very easy to prepare.

This recipe is really just a list of ingredient to be assembled as you prefer. There are no right proportions. My favourite has lots of jicama, which is readily available across SE Asia and at the Vietnamese supermarkets in Australia, but nowhere to be found in New Zealand (if you have a secret source, I’ll be your best friend!). You must use fresh pineapple for this, canned pineapples do not have the flavour to carry the dish. This should be assembled just before you eat as the liquid from the fruit will make the paste watery.

Ingredients (for 8 people):
¾ fresh pineapple (peeled, cored and cut into wedges)
½ cucumber
10 deep-fried puffed tofu
(1 medium sized jicama)
200g sambal rojak
30g chopped roasted peanuts

Choose a ripe pineapple; try to pick one that is around ½ yellow-skinned. To prepare the pineapple without being wasteful, cut off the top and the bottom so that it can sit on your chopping board. Then slice off the skin, leaving the eyes still on. You will see that the eyes follow a diagonal pattern around the pineapple. Segment out the eyes by cutting triangular prisms diagonally. Cut the pineapple in half, then in thirds, core and cut into wedges.

For the cucumber, just cut wedges right into your bowl. (This is the traditional way a rojak vendor would prepare it). If you have jicama, slice the jicama into similar sizes as the rest. Cut the puffed tofu into quarters.

Pound the peanut pieces in a mortar and pestle until you get rough crumbs, with some small pieces.

To make the rojak, put all the fruit and vegetables in a large bowl. Toss rojak paste through, mixing it well. The paste is very sticky, and will take a couple of minutes to evenly coat the ingredients. Sprinkle with the crumbed peanuts.

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