Rojak



Rojak is a local salad of mixed vegetables and fruits, drizzled with a sweet and sour sauce comprising local prawn paste, sugar and lime.1 Rojak in Malay means "mixed",2 but the dish exemplifies the cultural diversity of Singapore, including both Chinese and Malay elements in its ingredients. Often eaten as a side dish or as an appetiser, rojak can also be served as a main meal.3

Origins
It is uncertain how rojak originated.4 There are different vegetable salads that are unique to the Malayan archipelago. However, while the Indonesian gadoh-gadoh has a thick peanut-based sauce, vegetables such as long beans and proteins like eggs, rojak comprises cut vegetables mixed with the sweet-sour flavours of the black pasty sauce of local prawn paste. The flavours of these salads are far from similar, although they are often grouped together as Asian salads.5 Singapore rojak is also distinct from Indian rojak, sharing only their name and some of their ingredients.6


Description
This Asian salad is a rich mix of vegetables and fruits. Fresh vegetables, such as kangkong (water spinach) and taugeh (bean sprouts), are blanched. Others, such as the cucumber and the Chinese turnip are sliced in an angled fashion to add crunch.7 Sour, tangy flavours come from other ingredients such as sliced pineapple, although sometimes starfruit, young mangoes or unripe rose apples (jambu) are also added.8 Chinese rojak includes bite-size yu tiao (a crispy length of deep-fried flour),9 and sometimes toasted beancurd.10 The mark of a good rojak is its sauce – particularly the prawn paste, or hay ko, used.11 The sticky paste is mixed with a little water, lime juice and a lot of sugar.12 Chilli paste or freshly pound chillies may be added for some spice.13 A dusting of ground peanuts gives further texture. The paste is then mixed thoroughly, traditionally in a large wooden bowl with a wooden spoon.14 Only when the sauce is complete are the ingredients added and thoroughly mixed with the paste.15 Finally, the mixture is garnished with a dash of finely cut ginger flower.16

Rojak in Singapore
Until the 1980s, rojak peddlers could still be found, often illegally, moving through neighbourhoods on bicycles – as compared to using pushcarts in the 1960s.17 These carts, whether on bicycle or as a mobile stall, often had a wooden box where the fresh ingredients could be seen through glass panels. The peddler's only tools would be his cutting board, a knife and the large mixing bowl. The rojak would be cut and mixed on the spot.18 Before the days of paper plates, the ingredients would be packed in daun upeh, a leaf folded into the shape of a cup.19 Toothpicks pierced through the first few vegetables served as forks. There are more variations of rojak today as new ingredients are creatively added to the spicy, sweet and sour black sauce. The dish can be found in hawker centres or food courts and are often prepared by the Chinese.20



Autho
r
Bonny Tan




References
1. Wibisono, D., & Wong, D. (1999). The food of Singapore: Authentic recipes from the Manhattan of the East. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 FOO)
2.  Raghavan, S. (2010). Flavors of Malaysia: A journey through time, tastes, and traditions. New York: Hippocrene Books, p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 RAG-[COO])
3. Wibisono, D., & Wong, D. (1999). The food of Singapore: Authentic recipes from the Manhattan of the East, Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 FOO)
4. Classic Peranakan cooking: Recipes from the Straits Chinese kitchen. (2010) Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 59. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 CLA-[COO]); Tee, H. Y. (2001, June 3). Salad with many flavours. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Raghavan, S. (2010). Flavors of Malaysia: A journey through time, tastes, and traditions. New York: Hippocrene Books, p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 RAG-[COO]); Peng's English. (1981, February 1). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Başan, G. (2013). Recipes from Singapore & Malaysia: Traditions, techniques, 80 classic dishes. London: Aquamarine, p. 127. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 BAS); Tee, H. Y. (2001, June 3). Salad with many flavours. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 134–135. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN)
8. Tee, H. Y. (2001, June 3). Salad with many flavours. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Wibisono, D., & Wong, D. (1999). The food of Singapore: Authentic recipes from the Manhattan of the East. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 FOO)
10. Raghavan, S. (2010). Flavors of Malaysia: A journey through time, tastes, and traditions. New York: Hippocrene Books, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 RAG-[COO])
11. Wibisono, D., & Wong, D. (1999). The food of Singapore: Authentic recipes from the Manhattan of the East. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 FOO)
12. Başan, G. (2013). Recipes from Singapore & Malaysia: Traditions, techniques, 80 classic dishes. London: Aquamarine, p. 127. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 BAS)
13. Raghavan, S. (2010). Flavors of Malaysia: A journey through time, tastes, and traditions. New York: Hippocrene Books, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 RAG-[COO])
14. Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 135. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN)
15. Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 135. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN)
16. Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 134. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN); Mah, K. K. (1994, October 2). Rojak with the right toss. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Chua, W. Y. (2007, July 29). Ever taste vegetarian rojak paste? The New Paper, p. 30; Wherever Chinese Live There Are The Hawkers. (1935, August 18). The Straits Times, p. 5; Mah, K. K. (1994, October 2). Rojak with the right toss. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tee, H. Y. (2001, June 3). Rich and thick shrimp paste's the tramp card. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Thien. (2002, November 21). Wild about cooking with leaf wrappers. The Business Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Tee, H. Y. (2001, June 3). Salad with many flavours. The Straits Times, p. 11; Mah K. K. (1994, October 2). Rojak with the right toss, The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialities: A culinary journey. Culinaria: Konemann, p. 149.

(Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU)

Wibisono, D., & Wong, D. (1999). The food of Singapore: Authentic recipes from the Manhattan of the East. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 50.
(Call no.: RSING 641.595957 WIB)



The information in this article is valid as at 2004 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Heritage and Culture
Cookery>>Types of meals>>Side dishes
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Malay
Cookery>>Types of meals>>Desserts
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Cookery, Singaporean
Ethnic foods