Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Kerabu Pucuk Paku Pakis (Wild Fern Shoots Salad)

I managed to score some lovely pucuk paku pakis (Malay for wild fern shoots) at the pasar tani (Malay for farmer's market) so I decided to try my hand in making a salad (kerabu in Malay) from it. These markets are great as you get large varieties of herbs and vegetables that you rarely see in supermarkets at incredibly reasonable prices.

I used a recipe from a Flavours of Malaysia booklet which was originally for asparagus kerabu so feel free to interchange the two depending on whatever is available to you. It is incredibly simple to prepare and tastes great so this is also another dish we will be making again. I used only the tender shoots as the ferns can get quite hard if you use the whole stem. As fresh grated coconut was not readily available in my larder, I used some dessicated coconut I had left over from my coconut pancakes. The prawns were omitted this time around since we had quite a lot of food that night.

Asparagus Kerabu (Paku Pakis Kerabu)
300 g fine asparagus (or paku pakis shoots)
50g shelled fresh prawns
1/4 cup freshly grated coconut or dessicated coconut
1 small onion, cut into half rings
2 - 3 tbsp coconut milk (optional)

2 fresh chillies, pounded (or 1 tbsp prepared sambal oelek)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Snap asparagus from the tip into 5 cm lengths, stopping when you reach the section of the stem which doesn't snap easily. You should get 150 to 200 g of asparagus tips. Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and dip into cold water to stop it from cooking. Drain well and set aside.

Blanch prawns till firm and pink. Remove, cool and chop finely or pound coarsely in mortar and pestle. Set aside. Toast the coconut in a frying pan over low heat, stirring all the time until crisp, aromatic and golden brown; about 10 minutes for dessicated coconut and 20 minutes for fresh grated coconut. Grind finely in a mortar and pestle or pulse in food processor to the texture of fine breadcrumbs.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dressing ingredients. Add the prepared prawns and toss well. Add the asparagus, toasted coconut and onion. Mix well. Season with the coconut milk if using with a pinch of salt and drizzle over the kerabu. Transfer to a dish and serve immediately.

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