Rojak is a curious snack. It’s considered a salad, by definition but that could be a misnomer – At least from a western perspective.
Fresh tropical fruit and root vegetables are mixed with a dressing. The word ‘rojak’ means mixture in Malay, and variations can be found in a standard fruit rojak and also a Penang rojak. Indonesia also has several rojak variations.
Fruit rojak will normally include pineapple, cucumber, beansprouts, taupok – the Malay name for deep fried tofu puffs – and jicama, a turnip-like root vegetable. Known in Malaysia as sengkuang. The concoction is coated with a deliciously moreish mixture of sugar, shrimp paste, tamarind sauce, chilli, lime and water giving it an incredibly layered flavour – sweet, tart and spicy. Peanuts are also added – Peanuts make everything better.
Penang rojak is pretty similar but includes squid fritters and tart fruits such as jambu air, also known as rose apple; a red or green bell shaped fruit, easily spotted at most Asian markets, but very regularily in Malay & Thai towns.
A further variation is pasembur – sometimes spelled pasembor, or called Mamak rojak – It’s also a mix fruit and vegetable salad which can include any variations of potato, boiled egg, fried prawn fritters, cuttlefish, squid, cucumber, jicama, fried bean curd, served with a spicy peanut sauce.
The main distinctions are – aside from that rojak is inherently Malay, and pasembur is Mamak – that rojak is a standard dish, you order it and it comes, how it comes deemed by its creator. Pasembur stalls, on the other hand have a large number of pots and bowls, there’s a degree of experimentation and it can be up to you to pick and choose what you want to be on your plate.
Rojak is an incredibly tasty dish, sweet, spicy, sour, fruity and importantly, a source of your five a day!
A plate should only cost a handful of ringgits.
Phrases worth knowing
Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih – Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry
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