Sunday, April 13, 2014

How I Became the Salad


Rice noodle, apple-cucumber morning glory salad
(aka RAM Salad - for reasons that will be explained later)


This salad is my present. Just a simple, seven-minute assemblage of the things from my kitchen shelves. But that could be a direct metaphor for my life; where everything comes together at once, and every experience carries at least a little bit of all the moments that have come before it. So let me take you through it, because I know you're dying (or at least mildly feigning interest) to know why I would compare my life to a salad.

First, the general motivations:
  • I had three baby apples and one very excellent cucumber lying in front of me, pleading to be pulped squeezed used. How could I not?
  • It was time for Sunday morning brunch -- easily the best meal of the week -- and I was need of something that didn't involve just muesli, fruit and yoghurt (my breakfast of choice for the past seven years).
  • I'd been dreaming about Taiwanese cold noodle salad since Friday. It is now Sunday. 36 hours is too long to be dreaming about food that takes ten minutes to make.
  • Plus, I hadn't sent my family a picture of my food for a whole 12 hours to assure them I wasn't starving.
Next, how it came to be.

For said salad, you need noodles, cucumber, carrots, garlic, sesame oil & seeds, sugar and a whole bunch other stuff (a version of the recipe can be found here). Just the thought of all those flavours always takes me back to a very happy place in the kitchen of a French village where my ex-boyfriend's mother first made this for us. Buuut, I refuse to follow recipes to the tee, plus I had these lovely fresh vegetables just waiting to jump into whatever I made next, so whatever comes next is inspired by what I ate that day, but not an exact reproduction.

It is however, like most human experience, authentic.

It also uses one of my favourite green things in the world; kangkung, aka morning glory. This looks a bit like bamboo leaves and tastes like all the goodness in Sri Lanka when stir-fried with garlic, chillies and dried Maldive fish. Or even just with garlic, as my friend Julia and the lady at the Asian store jointly emphasised. A little bit of morning glory for my morning.

So here's what I did.
  1. First, I grated a quarter of the cucumber and an apple and set it aside.
  2. In a wok, I flash-stir-fried some kangkung and a few broken up heads of broccoli with the thick stem grated in so it would cook quickly and evenly. Then, I threw in a generous fistful of brown rice vermicelli and a mug of water. You could use regular spaghetti-type noodles for a more robust dish.When most of the water had steamed off on high heat (about three minutes), I grated some garlic on top. You can use carrots, mushrooms, pretty much any stir-friable vegetable you like here. Likewise for soy-sauce marinated chicken/pork if it takes your fancy.
  3. I then mixed in some oyster sauce (feel free to use soy, sesame oil, peanut butter, lemon, sweet vinegar or all of these), lifted some out into a plate, and topped it with the grated cucumber and apple and their residual water. The cucumber water made it just a little more pliable and the apple made it both sweet and tart without having to add lemon and sugar. Win!
  4. I dusted some sesame and onion seeds on top for crunch. You could also add peanuts, sunflower seeds or whatever you want. Whether you choose to eat this cold or warm, add the crunchy stuff at the last moment!
As you can see, it's a pretty adjustable, substitutable recipe that can be as ingredient-heavy or light as you like. Like life, it's what you make of it. Every ingredient in this recipe takes me back to some place in my life when I was legitimately the teenager I have felt I was every day of this past week. I'm 100% sure yours, if you make it, will look different.

Maybe I should call this Random Access Memory Salad instead.

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