Yet another recipe inspiration from the George Calombaris Asia Tour, seeing nasi kerabu on the menu triggered a nasi kerabu craving. That’s kind of how my recipes develop – I see, I crave, I cook. Of course, I don’t use white rice so I decided to use quinoa instead, mostly because I didn’t feel up to cooking up the whole shebang with chicken, fish and the gravy. Incorporating it into a salad would make it lighter and healthier, whilst maintaining the fragrance and superb flavours of the dish and keeping protein requirements in check. Ideally, I’d have liked to dye the quinoa blue too, but my brother’s butterfly-pea plant isn’t looking too good and isn’t flowering.
Nasi Kerabu is a dish that originates from the state of Kelantan. It’s stand-out feature is the use of blue rice that is dyed naturally using butterfly-pea flowers. It is mixed with local herbs and vegetables for a superb flavour fest. There are many variations of the mix of herbs that go into it, some of which are: Vietnamese mint (daun kesum), torch ginger flower (bunga kantan), and lemongrass. Beansprouts, long beans and cabbage are also added for crunch. It’s actually really healthy, then you add a side of fried chicken, fried fish, and coconut gravy.. and then it becomes a (really tasty) indulgence fest.
Herbs are traditionally used for their healing qualities, and this rice salad is packed with them. Vietnamese mint is great for the digestive tract and is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. Torch ginger bud, from the ginger family, is thought to reduce diabetes and hypertension. Lemongrass is also very therapeutic, containing various vitamins and minerals and is also anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain that is super-nutritious and is also one of the few complete, plant-based protein sources. It’s got manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, copper, iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, some calcium and vitamin E. I wasn’t kidding about how nutritious it is. It’s still a carb, but if you’re going to eat carbs and you should because you need them for energy, you might as well make it quinoa.
Quinoa is probably one of the more expensive grains on the market right now, and it may not be in everyone’s comfort zone to purchase it. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ve probably significantly reduced your shopping bill since meat is rather pricey, so it will make sense to include quinoa in your diet to make sure you have sufficient protein. It’s nutritious and it’s incredibly versatile, so you don’t have to worry about not using it because you can add it to salads or use it as a rice substitute. One bag of quinoa will get me through a little over a month if I consume it once a week, so the costs evens out for sure.
I know this salad is really specialised, but it is so delicious and fragrant. If you’re in Malaysia, these ingredients are readily available but if you’re elsewhere, take a look at the nearby Chinatown and explore the wonderful array of fresh herbs that might be in store.
- 100g cabbage
- 100g fine French beans (long beans are more traditional)
- 8 stalks Vietnamese mint (daun kesum), leaves picked
- ½ torch ginger bud
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1 cup quinoa
- Salt, pepper to taste
- Rinse the quinoa and place in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and let it simmer. Once all the water is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes, take it off the heat and set aside.
- Rinse all the herbs and vegetables and dry thoroughly. Finely shred the herbs and vegetables and set aside in a bowl.
- You could also chop everything finely in a food processor to speed up the process.
- Fluff out the cooled quinoa, and add to the shredded herbs and vegetables. Toss together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve on its own as a refreshing salad or as a side to curry or traditional kerabu gravy.
Enjoy! xx, Bee