There are three styles of consuming forest leaf vegetables in our country: wraps of leaves with coarse salt, tiny chili pepper, and some sauce of the people in the Highlands; wraps of dew-wetted rice paper and boiled pork from Tây Ninh Province; and the hot pot of many kinds of young leaves from the Mekong Delta. Whatever the style, the important thing is that we can enjoy the freshness of the leaves, their sourish, bitterish, and crunchy tastes in our mouths. Forest leaf vegetables enthralls the staff of Ngoc Linh Restaurant in Gia Lai Province so much that they have found more than fifty kinds of them and brought them back to plant in the garden just to obtain leaves to make leaf salad. There are not enough leaves in the plains, but if we try our best, we can find more than twenty kinds around us: young guava leaves, young mango leaves, and young Ming aralia. If you roll them together to make a funnel, add some sauce, a bite of green tiny chili pepper, two grains of salt, then put the leaf funnel into your mouth, you will feel as if you were in the middle of the forest listening to birds’ songs.
LEAF SALADPrint This
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE LEAF SALAD
- Forest vegetables: ambarella leaves,
- mango leaves, cluster fig leaves, guava
- leaves, Ming aralia leaves, cynometra
- ramiflora leaves, young shoots of
- garcinia gummigutta, Asian barringtonia
- (just the young and tender leaves; there
- are around 20-50 kinds of leaves).
- 200g pork belly
- 200g black tiger prawns
- 200g snakehead fillets
- 15g ginger
- 15g galangal
- 100ml rice wine
- 30ml lime extract
- 50g ground roasted rice powder
- 5g salt
- 20g coarse salt
- 15g black pepper
- 15g green tiny chili pepper
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE SAUCE
- 100g pork shoulder blade
- 20g dried shrimp
- 1 duck egg
- 10g shallots
- 20g fermented cooked rice
- 500ml broth
- 10g shrimp chili paste
- (20g galangal)
- (20ml cooking oil)
- (2g salt)
Prepare the ingredients for the salad: Cut out the leaves, then thoroughly wash and drain them well in a basket. Thoroughly clean and drain the shrimp and pork. Wash the snakehead fillets with 50ml wine and 5g salt, drain and pat them dry using paper towels. Bash up ginger and galangal, and then pour in 50ml rice wine, and 30ml lime extract. Place 20g coarse salt into a bowl, add peppercorns and green tiny chili pepper, mash them up until no lumps are visible.
Prepare the sauce: Wash the dried shrimp and soak it for 30 minutes until softened. Take them out and mash them up. Grind the pork. Peel and finely chop the shallot; scrape off the peel of the galangal, and finely chop it.
Make the sauce: Pour the cooking oil into a pan, when the oil is hot, put the shallot and galangal in and deep-fry them until crisp and golden. Add the pounded dried shrimp and stir quickly. Add the ground pork and stir until it shrinks, then add chili paste and the fermented cooked rice and stir quickly. Then pour the broth into the pan and bring to a boil, skim off the foam on the top, put the whipped duck egg in, and cook for about one hour, then add 2g salt. Season to taste and turn off the stove.
Make the salad: Bring the shrimp to a boil, peel them, remove the heads, leave the tail segments on for looks, cut into two if the shrimp are big. Bring the pork belly to a boil, set aside to cool, thinly slice it and put on a plate.
Thinly slice the snakehead fish; submerge it in a mixture of lime extract, vinegar, ginger, galangal for 10 minutes, then take it out, pat it dry using paper towels, after that crumb it with powdered grilled rice, and then place on a plate.
Place the vegetables on the tray. Place fish, prawn, and pork on the plate; serve with dipping sauce and salt, pepper and chili mix. When consuming, take one leaf of each kind, and make a funnel from them. Stuff the prawn, ground pork, and fish into the funnel, and then spoon over the hot dipping sauce.
The sauce should be orange, and naturally gelatinous. All the ingredients in the sauce should be blended together to create a unique taste, and has the light sourness of the fermented cooked rice, and the spiciness of chili paste.
Prawn, fish and pork have a fresh sweetness.
Snakehead fillets can be replaced with grouper, red tilapia, or giant gourami fillets.
Crumb the fillets with the powdered grilled rice just before serving so that the powdered grilled rice will not become wet.
Use young leaves only because old ones are stringy.
EFFECTS OF THIS DISH
This dish provides a lot of protein from pork, black tiger prawns, snakeheads; but thanks to forest vegetables, it is good for health. This is a good salad for those who have asthenic body syndrome, anemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, constipation, loss of appetite and lack of sleep.
LE VAN BOI Ngoc Linh Restaurant (Gia Lai Province) Runner-up in the Southern regional semifinal round of the Golden Spoon Awards 2013