ROJAK is inherently healthy, if only there was less sugar and black shrimp paste (hayko) in the dressing and less peanuts used to smother this Asian salad.
Composed of just raw vegetables such as cucumber and jicama (bangkwang) and sometimes fruit, with some soya bean and fried dough products, you could modify the shrimp paste dressing to your own healthy standards, but actually, there is already an healthy item sold at rojak stalls.
This is the stuffed tau pok or tofu puffs.
They are sold, stuffed with just fresh cucumber slices and bean sprouts and flavoured with a dollop of the same delicious though cholesterol-rich black shrimp sauce. As with rojak, it is also topped with chopped peanuts, adding to the caloric content.
Another disadvantage, it is often served with less healthy yu tiao (fried dough fritters) and dried cuttlefish leather, often referred to as Japanese chewing gum, for the textures are similar.
But if you stuff your own tau pok, you get all the pleasure of eating it, minus its cons.
One of a few healthy hawker food offerings, the protein rich soya puff is merely grilled before being stuffed with raw vegetables, giving a pleasing crunch to what is essentially a vegetarian dish. The only sin is the black shrimp dressing that is often laden with sugar.
But I find that if I substitute this dressing with a more healthful one, I get all the delights of the stuffed item without its ill benefits.
I sometimes dress it with spicy nut sauces, ground from healthful nuts such as almonds and brazils, for example. Or as in this recipe, I make up a sweet and sour dressing from lemon and plum sauces.
Instead of just cucumber and bean sprouts, I use an assortment of sprouts and greens, giving interest to the filling.
The chopped peanut topping is also replaced with healthier almonds, rendering even more harmless an already healthy hawker snack.
Stuffed tau pok with spicy lemon-plum sauce (For 4-6)
- 6-12 pieces of tau pok (soya bean puffs)
- Cucumber slices
- Snow peas –blanched first
- Daikon or radish sprouts
- 1/4 cup bottled plum sauce
- 1/4 cup bottled lemon sauce
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- A handful of almonds – toasted then chopped
- Grill tau pok puffs under a hot grill until golden. When cool, make a slit in each one to form a pocket.
- Fill each puff with a slice of cucumber, some snow peas and some radish sprouts.
- Make up dip by mixing together dip ingredients. Serve stuffed puffs with dip on the side.
- Try also various kinds of sprouts such as bean sprouts, water cress, pea shoots or alfafa sprouts as filling.
- Instead of almonds, you could use peanuts, macadamias or walnuts though almonds are the most nutritious of the nuts.