Rojak: how Malaysians eat fruit

11 Aug

I know I’ve talked about rojak before, but I think this deserves a special mention. You see, the other day I happened on a rojak stall where the auntie makes the sauce à la minute, as they say in fancy restaurants, including grinding the chilis by hand in a mortar and pestle. On the sidewalk.

Zila, the rojak vendor, slicing a cucumber for the rojak

This stall is one of the many that line the road that goes through Desa Sri Hartamas, one of the neighborhoods near me. What’s ostensibly a two-lane road — and a busy one, since it connects to the expressway — is reduced to one meandering lane as drivers pull over without warning and double park to grab their nasi lemaks and pisang gorengs.

Grinding chilis

A short refresher on rojak: it’s a mix of fruits and vegetables, generally crunchy or acidic types like pineapple, cucumber, jicama, and guava, mixed with a salty-sweet-umami-y sauce that looks like tar, or molasses if you want to keep the analogies in the edible realm. Chili and peanuts are added on request. I have no idea what exactly goes in the sauce, although I do know that marine creatures are somehow involved.

Fruit for rojak

As it’s Ramadan now, Zila (the rojak vendor — proper rojak takes some time to make, so we chatted for a bit) isn’t running the stall. But if you should be passing through Desa Sri Hartamas on an afternoon, double-park with the rest of the locals and give her rojak a try.

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2 Responses to “Rojak: how Malaysians eat fruit”

  1. Nate @ House of Annie August 25, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    While I like all the fruits that go into rojak, I don’t particularly care for the sauce (I think it’s shrimp-based). So I’m generally reluctant to eat it. Even moreso for the sotong (squid) rojak.

    Give me a fresh durian instead!

    • rgautz August 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

      Yeah, I think rojak sauce is an acquired taste. I like fishy/shrimpy flavors, though. I think this may have been a squid rojak.

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