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Kerabu (5-Ingredient Malaysian Vegetable Salad) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Toasted grated coconut provides smoky-sweet attraction to closing salad.
  • Utilizing available desiccated coconut considerably reduces the cooking time.
  • Blanching some forms of greens whereas leaving others uncooked ensures the perfect traits of every are highlighted.

A major a part of Malay culinary custom is “ulam,” which refers to wild or cultivated greens which can be eaten uncooked or briefly blanched as an accompaniment to the remainder of the dishes of a meal. Virtually any vegetable can be utilized as an ulam so long as it’s edible uncooked. An extension of the ulam idea is “kerabu,” which is mainly the Malay phrase for “salad.” The aforementioned ulam are mixed and dressed with sambal (often sambal belacan, which incorporates shrimp paste together with pink chiles and lime juice) and toasted grated coconut, after which perked up with lime juice to make a contemporary and spicy salad. Kerabu will be seen as one half of a bigger vegetable-focused theme throughout Southeast Asia, from the contemporary som tam, or “pounded salads,” of Thailand to the cooked urap salads of Indonesia, all of them little question influencing one another in style and texture.

Critical Eats /Michelle Yip


Very like Western-style salads, kerabu tends to be based mostly on a star ingredient. Whereas you’ll find kerabu that includes meat like beef lungs, rooster toes, or jellyfish all through Malaysia, it’s way more frequent to see kerabu based mostly on greens, each uncooked and blanched. A number of greens are generally present in one kerabu, but it surely’s extra frequent for every kerabu to characteristic a single principal ingredient. Well-liked selections for the primary part of vegetable kerabu embody crunchy inexperienced pods like lengthy beans, inexperienced beans, or, my private favourite, winged beans (kacang botor). Leafy greens are frequent, too, significantly hardy and mild-flavored greens like water celery (daun selom or, in Korean, minari, as featured within the eponymous 2020 movie) or edible types of pennywort. These leafy greens are usually wild weeds, gathered as a part of a scrumptious, low-cost, and nutritious meal.

An essential ingredient in kerabu is kerisik, or toasted grated coconut; it provides a smoky-sweet taste and nice chew to the salad. To make it, you dry-fry the coconut in a pan for roughly an hour till it reaches the specified degree of toastiness: Blond kerisik is the shade a chunk of evenly toasted bread and retains some contemporary coconut taste; darkish kerisik is extra deeply smoky and caramelized. Whereas contemporary grated coconut is preferable, because it has extra of its flavorful important oils intact, I’ve found within the means of growing this recipe that utilizing shelf-stable desiccated coconut can reduce the cooking time for kerisik by half. That, plus the supply of desiccated coconut over contemporary grated coconut, makes it a worthy choice.

Critical Eats / Michelle Yip


Blonde kerisik is quicker to make and performs nicely with leafy variations of kerabu. When kerisik will get to a really darkish stage, it is dried out sufficient that it could possibly final for as much as a month within the fridge. Of us often make kerisik like this in bulk, so it’s prepared so as to add to kerabu, gulai, rendang, and different dishes that profit from a smoky coconutty hit. In a well-stocked Malay kitchen, sambal belacan and kerisik are nearly all the time available within the fridge. Which means that kerabu will be pulled collectively in as little as 10 minutes, making it a simple weeknight win.

A brand new favourite ceremonial dinner thought of mine is to arrange a kerabu bar, the place visitors can select what goes into their particular person kerabu. I prefer to set out totally different contemporary and blanched greens, together with kerisik and sambal belacan, plus a mixing bowl on the desk for people to combine their particular person kerabu. Fried or grilled proteins like fish and tofu are nice to serve with the kerabu, as is a pot of cooked rice to eat with it.

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