Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fire & Ice and Everything Nice

It’s true dedication when I am passing by a hawker centre after a meeting and decide that I should check it out for the blog since I have never been to that particular one before. I’d just eaten but a hawker centre of that size deserved some exploration.

I was at Alexandra Road for a meeting and as I wandered around, I spotted a large hawker centre with quite a lot of stalls still open even though it was 4.30pm. I wasn’t particularly hungry so I decided to try some of the local desserts. The stall I patronised was obviously a franchise. Anytime you see the words “House of …,” it’s a franchise.

Despite my misgivings, I decided to give it a try by virtue of the fact they had a rather intriguing sounding dessert – Pear with Fungal. Er … really? Suppressing a gulp (and a little bit of nausea), I decided to investigate.

The stall owner must be a fan of Mind Your Language. I can imagine many a sheepish chuckle and relieved giggles as unsuspecting potential diners like me discover that the dessert is an innocuous sweet Chinese soup of Chinese pears and white cloud fungus.

As it was such a hot and muggy day, I decided to purchase some to test the combination of sweet, crisp pear with mushy, slippery white cloud fungus – a sure-fire cure for over-heated systems as these two are cooling foods. I was not too convinced that it would be a tasty marriage but perhaps I was just slightly biased as I am not a keen fan of cloud fungus. Still, the food adventurer in me decided to give it a go.

I also purchased some glutinous rice balls soup, something I am not that fond of too but since I was on a mission of culinary pushing-of-the-envelop, I decided I would go the whole hog. And also, I fancied the idea of a fire and ice dessert sensation.

The icy cold, cooling and mushy Pear and White Cloud Fungus soup flirted with its complete opposite, the hot, spicy ginger soup with the chewy and glossy tang yuan aka glutinous rice balls filled with black sesame and peanut pastes. Even the colours were contrastingly vivid!

I expected to enjoy the cold Pear and White Fungus soup more since I typically prefer cold desserts. And it had little Chinese almond halves in it which I adore so I thought it would be the obvious winner in the contest of fire and ice. But surprisingly, the glowing pale concoction left me cold. It had a strange, gluey taste and texture that was slightly, disturbingly chalky. The pears had a tang to them that did not pair well with the white cloud fungus or the almonds. What little white cloud fungus there were, were so overcooked they almost melted into the soup. I found it rather unappetising.

I resigned myself to eating the tang yuan, with the consolation that it is near impossible to mess up ginger soup so I could at least enjoy that. As expected, I did not enjoy the peanut-filled glutinous rice ball although the dough was a lot more tender and glossier than normal. Furthermore, the peanut filling was dry and I could taste that it had been roasted the day before, as the oil was slightly rancid.

I quickly moved on to the black sesame-filled glutinous rice. Much, much better. The black sesame paste was smokey and nutty yet sweet enough to temper it. The slightly gritty texture highlighted the moist, chewy and slippery glutinous shell and it was altogether rather nice, even if it is still not my favourite dessert.

Thankfully the ginger soup was generous and slightly thick, which makes me wonder why the House of Desserts is so partial to starch in their sweet dessert soups. I find the addition quite unpleasant.

As I left the stall, I pondered on the fact that the stall advertised itself as a vegetarian dessert stall. Surely all desserts are vegetarian? What desserts are meat-based??? Perhaps they meant vegetarian as in using no animal by-product? Hmmm …

Still, I am glad I gave it a try because I got to try a new dish and realised I did not like it. And I tried another dish I normally do not like and discovered I do not dislike it as much as I thought I did. I’m still not going to go out and buy myself some glutinous balls but if I did, I would choose the black sesame ones and avoid the peanut ones.

Well, that was fun … now where’s the Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food?

Double Hoax


You really can’t teach old dogs new tricks. 3A and I certainly demonstrated that when we stayed up till the wee hours of the morning just in the hopes of catching a dance performance.

No, we are not groupies … just two sad has-been with nothing better to do it seems. It all started when I’d received an evite from dbl O, a club in the Mohd Sultan strip of nightclubs and bars, advertising the Belly House parties from 19 to 22 April. Normally, I disregard such invites but this one captured my attention because of the sultry promise of the following:

Admittedly, much of my attention was snagged by the tantalising words, “Magnificent Muscular Men”. Amused and curious, I sent it to some dancer friends to check if they knew who the performers were. The consensus was that the “live” drummer was probably the psychotic, stalkerish and eminently untalented drummer blacklisted by most of the dancers. And the dancers might be from the KK school of dancers. 3A and I were curious and bored enough to decide to pay a visit to dbl O just to catch their performance, since it had been a long time since we’d seen KK’s dancers do their thing.

Now, I have to talk a little about Mohd Sultan Road. In the late 90s, it was the hotspot of nubile young things, pounding music and humongous lines outside the many trendy nightspots. A common tableau was extremely young and illegal patrons queuing for hours to get in or staggeringly drunkenly out to upchuck glamorously into the five foot walks.

Taxis lined the streets of rich pickings and it was fairly amusing to watch the desperate, last ditch attempts at pick-ups of another kind as you leave the clubs. Amusing and alarming in equal measures because so many of the young girls were often so inebriated, they were lying prone on the pavement as morally-bankrupt blokes stood over them hopefully caressing their little silver foils tucked in their pockets. Those were the days when just passing the street made you feel old.

3A and I felt old this time around too. Because dbl O still harboured the Mohd Sultan ‘tude – full of nubile young things and more attitude than style. However, Mohd Sultan had become a shadow of its former self. Shabbier and infinitely quieter (so quite it was empty), there was an air of silent, despairing desperation of a street clutching hopelessly to its former glory. It was in denial of its has-been status and was trapped in a dated, terribly unhip time warp. Much like 3A and I, actually.

Sure we had our hay days of partying but we stuck out like two extremely sore thumbs in dbl O now that we are on the dark side of our 30s. It did not help that we were inappropriately dressed. The door bitch/bouncer refused to let 3A in with her messenger bag. It was obvious it was not the size of the bag. We were given the choice of bag checking 3A’s bag or leaving. 3A was uncomfortable about the security of the club so we were forced to go back to her place to change to a smaller bag. Later, 3A groused that there were many girls there with much larger bags than hers. I did not have the heart to tell her it was not the size but the lack of style they were giving us hell for.

Truly, dbl O was reveling in its own delusion of coolness. Which is quite ironic since the décor was incredibly tacky, the music banal, the service atrocious and the performances horrendous. It was also really boring. The most outstanding thing about dbl O was the staff’s attitude. I did not appreciate the door bitch/bouncer’s looking down at 3A because of her attire and the obvious fact that she is not a clubber. Another bouncer spent the entire night walking the perimeters of the dance floor and telling people not to drink on the dance floor when they were no where near it. The staff were so unjustifiably full of themselves, had really poor attitudes and no concept of how a club should be run.

Bless 3A though. She actually worried that we might get picked up despite my telling her that we would never have any worries in clubs like dbl O since we are old enough to be many of the patrons' mothers. And seriously, no bloke would even give us a second look. I don’t think 3A has quite realised that we are has-beens in the clubbing scene yet. Yes, denial is not just a river in Egypt. I certainly hope we do not mimick Mohd Sultan’s slow kicking and screaming slide into the sunset.

We were definitely an incongruous sight in dbl O. It would not have been as bad if we had situated ourselves discreetly in a corner but 3A was determined to have a good view of the stage, which meant that we were smack dabbed in the centre of things.

I could feel the garish spotlights highlighting how out of place we were. It did not help that where we were standing was right under the very cold and draughty air vents blowing right into us. And we were not dancing … just standing there, making our presence highly conspicuous and suspect. What was worse was that I had a vague suspicion that our position announced our presence to all of KK’s students – something I truly dislike. Sigh … I really, REALLY like my anonymity and hate people taking note of my appearances. But I just gritted my teeth and ignored the many questioning stares.

After all that waiting, the two drummers only set up at 11pm. There was a palpable air of restlessness from the natives. The drummers were complete strangers to us, which was a relief. I always like “discovering” new drummers. However, I thought it was extremely poor planning that they began assembling the stage only then and we were treated to their fumbling set-up of the mikes (of which there were not enough) and velcroing of the skirting to the small platform. They did not even do a sound check resulting in the two drummers not being heard above the dance music.

While the advertisement did not claim that the tabla players were middle eastern drummers, it certainly implied it with the theme. Therefore, it was disappointing that the two drummers used Indian tablas and bongo drums. And to be honest, they were not very good but then again, I cannot say that with absolute certainty because of the messed-up sound system. And the Indian tabla player had no clue what he was doing because he had to physically walk in circles around his set of 3 Indian tablas and 1 bongo drum in order to play each drum. Tragic.

With such uninspiring drum performances, 3A and I should have cottoned on to the possibility that the dance performance may be just as disastrous. But since we had endured so much to even get into the club, we were determined to see at least one dance performance.

All I can say is that it was a good thing it was Ladies Night, so entry and all the house pours were free, as I would have kicked up a big fuss and insisted on leaving if I had to pay money to suffer through the dbl hoax experience.

We waited and waited but did not see any dancers. What we did see was dbl O’s idea of a Kasbah Harem set-up. They had makeshift valances made of cheap, shiny green faux satin trimmed with gold tinsel and embroidered Malay-style ribbon. Indonesian checked sarongs lined the walls and I had to check I was not at a Malay wedding instead. But the pièce de résistance was a large tube of fire-engine red mesh right smack in the middle of the club. It looked like a Chinese lantern gone very very wrong, sporting a jaunty frond of the same green atrocity adorning the beams above us. At first we assumed it was someone’s bad attempt at a light feature till we realised to utmost horror that it was meant for a “cage” dancer.

Just as we reached this scary conclusion, we spotted four girls decked in lurid, cheap spangled bras, hip scarves and diaphanous slit-to-the-waist harem pants. They looked incredibly tacky but it was made worse by the fact they were all wearing their harem pants tucked into high, kitten-heel boots and matching head scarves. Behold the gay French Legionnaires trying out for a role in Moulin Rouge!

3A excitedly grasped my arm (I have bruises … the woman likes to grab my arms and she has strong fingers) when she saw them, convinced they were the dancers. But I spied the play syringe and vials of tequila clutched in the clueless damsels’ hands and informed 3A with great relief that they were just the tequila mamas.

This relief was cut short when at 1.05am (yes, we actually waited till then! Someone give us a medal for tenacity and stupidity please!), one of the tequila mamas pried herself into the red light district and began gyrating, wriggling and undulating to a music unheard by anyone else in the club. I do not know what song she was hearing in her head, but the rest of us were obviously on a different channel. Aghast, 3A and I just stared at her with our jaws almost dropping to the ground. Unbelievable! Not even KK’s girls would stoop to that!

I wish I had something positive to say so I do not sound like a raving bitch ranting away but it was truly a horrible night and a complete waste of time. I take issue with dbl O for completely false advertising, poor taste, abysmal service and just plain lousy entertainment. 3A and I left at exactly 1.15am. Honestly, I would have had more fun washing my hair.

And what magnificent muscular men??!!! Now that was just wrong to mislead me thus!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Internal Organ-isation

They say ignorance is bliss. I must be very blessed then.

My knowledge of food is a little skewed, eclectic and haphazard. Pretty much like everything else in my life! While I might know the most unusual and bizarre things, there are huge blind spots in certain areas of my culinary education. I fully admit my inadequacy and am always willing to learn. Just like dance, I believe that the following hold true –

The more you know, the less you know
You can never learn enough
Those who always believe that they know it all, know nothing at all

I find people who are always so busy trying to impress their superior knowledge on others, because they believe that everyone else is an idiot, incredible bores. I have a very well intentioned friend who is perpetually trying to tell me what to do, convinced she is right even when she is wrong. While I never call her on it, being a well brought-up child, I have noticed that she constantly dismisses any information, opinion or knowledge that I share with her. When I make an observation about something, she would immediately dismiss it. It is an instinctive thing with her. She dismisses or discredits it before she even processes it in her brain.

The strange thing is that she will later present my observation as hers. Mind you, this is a good friend of whom I am inordinately fond of, so being a passive-aggressive person with a long fuse but devastating explosions, I just let it pass … for now.

Knowledgeable people fascinate me. I enjoy learning from them but I notice the line between experience and temperance is extremely fine. Typically, when they are so convinced of their knowledge, they refuse to accept or consider any other point of view. Which is a pity as it closes them off to so many new experiences.

A friend’s mother-in-law is reputedly an excellent cook. Being Chinese, she habitually cooks up a storm of Chinese delicacies which my friend assures me I will never enjoy in any restaurant or food court. True home cooked, authentic Chinese cuisine. Having heard so much about her mother-in-law’s cooking, I was thrilled when H offered to bring some to me yesterday.

It was extremely fortunate that I was not hungry as what she brought curled my toes. In a bad way. While I do not balk at many things and am always game to try something new, I was not quite expecting my friend’s generous bounty. She brought me pig’s stomach. And intestines.

I’ve had pig’s stomach and intestines before. In Teochew porridge. In feng. In some Spanish dishes the names of which I cannot remember now. I don’t really have a problem with that. What I had a problem with was the fact that the pig’s stomach was just boiled. With nothing else to disguise the taste or look. It was even in huge chunks as large as my post-it pad. It was disgusting.

And the intestines were raw. I mean raw as in just out of some little piggie. Apparently, H was supposed to add the intestines to the stomach. Except that H does not cook. She obviously did not want to cook this or particularly enjoy this dish, whatever it is called or supposed to be. And she had decided to offload this superbly disturbing dish to me since she knows I cook and live near her.

It was a truly shabby gesture which reveals her true regard of me but I was too polite to chide her. I just thanked her and chucked the lot in the fridge, thankful I had some leftover pulut hitam to eat for dinner.

But that did not solve my problem. I had the biology experiments lurking in my fridge. Whatever was I supposed to do with them? My grandmother had inculcated the post-war mentality in me not to waste anything so throwing them out was abhorrent to me. And here’s one of my culinary blind spots. I had no clue how to clean and prepare stomach and intestines.

I went to the best place I knew. My computer. Surfing the net for hours for a clue, I gleamed the basic information on how to clean and prepare intestines or chitterlings. Most advocate running a paste of garlic through the intestines to clean the inside. Made sense. But being a trifle queasy, I decided I would add coarse sea salt to my garlic paste to give it the grit to abrade and clean the intestines more thoroughly.

I used a Kylie Kwong recipe for Slow-Cooked Tripe as inspiration. So I did not have tripe but I reckoned that what works for tripe should work for the stomach and intestines. Braising also sounded like the wisest choice to make the Goodyear Tyre-textured stomach edible. Rolling up my sleeves I got to work.

Measurements are extremely iffy here as I worked intuitively and things just bubbled and toiled till I decided I was happy with the dish.

Sweet & Sour Slow-Cooked Pig’s Organs Steph Style
1 plate of boiled pig’s stomach, probably about 150g
1 bowl of small intestines –
at least I think they were small since they were only a wide as my finger

1 whole head of garlic, peeled – for cleaning the intestines
1 tsp of salt – for cleaning the intestines

2 ripe tomatoes
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp of salt

1 inch thick disc of palm sugar, grated

½ fennel, sliced

1 red onion, sliced
2 sticks of celery, sliced
¼ cup white wine
2 tbsp red wine – I ran out of white
1 tbsp Choya – or mirin will do too
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp white rice vinegar
1 chicken stock cube
20 black peppercorns

1. Coarsely pound the garlic with the salt and stuff a teaspoon of this into one end of the intestines

2. Squeeze and press the mixture through the intestines, right to the other end, pushing out the garlic paste and all the really gross stuff out

3. Rinse and run the water through like a hose, making sure not to puncture or break the casing

4. Repeat this process another 3 times. Most people seem to do it only twice but I am paranoid so I did it a total of 4 times till the garlic paste came out clean.

5. Cut the stomach and intestines into fairly large bite sizes

6. Pound the 6 cloves of garlic with ½ tsp salt into a fine paste

7. Dissolve the palm sugar in about ¼ cup of water and reduce it on a low flame, without stirring till it is syrupy

8. Sauté the garlic paste in a claypot or any earthen pot on medium flame till fragrant, making sure it does not burn. Add the fennel, celery and onions with ½ tsp salt and sauté for 2 mins

9. Squish the tomatoes over the vegetables till the juices flow out. Tear them roughly into chunks with your hands (this is a rustic dish so go for it!) and chuck them in with the stomach and intestines

10. Add the syrup, wines, stock cube and vinegars, mix well and simmer on very low heat for 1 hour

11. Taste to see if it needs adjusting. Add more balsamic vinegar if it needs more piquancy, or some brown sugar to kick up the sweetness

12. This would be fabulous served hot with crusty or garlic bread

I did not have any bread so I ate this as is. With a plate of kai lan which I had blanched in salted water, drizzled with some oyster sauce flavoured with dried scallops as well as a little sesame oil and sprinkled with my crushed fried garlic and peanuts concoction.

It was a wonderfully satisfying meal considering that I made this on the fly and have never cooked pig’s stomach or intestines before. I believe if you are using fresh stomach (as in not boiled by someone’s mother-in-law before), the cooking time may be shortened. I had to slow cook it for that long in order to get the stomach and intestines to be fork tender yet toothsome.

The intense sweet and sour flavour subdued the strong, barnyardy pungency of the stomach and intestines. I really liked the almost malty, mulled sweetness in the braising liquid and was really surprised at how little pong there was in the dish. The normally aggressive odours of the internal organs were exceedingly mild and quite delicious enhanced by the braising liquid gently perfumed with a hint of aniseed. The one-two punch from the palm sugar and the balsamic vinegar both perked and soothed the palate. The braised vegetables were soft and meltingly buttery yet the fennel retained some of its texture, which made for some rather delightful morsels. I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

Honestly, I am rather proud of myself. I would normally never have chosen to make a dish like this but I decided not to close my mind to it and came up with something unusual and tasty. I bet my all-knowing friend would criticise or compare this to traditional Chinese or Asian dishes but like me, this dish is not “pure” anything. Just a surprising and happy hybrid.

I give my Sweet & Sour Slow-Cooked Pig’s Organs a 8.5/10 for taste and 9/10 for health. My kai lan side dish scored a 9/10 for taste and 10/10 for health. It was certainly a night of culinary exploration. I’m glad I was gastronomically intrepid but disappointed in my poor choice of friends.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

WHB#28 - Thou Shaddock Call It Pomelo


There’s something about Easter. Aside from the fact that I am so Catholic I even feel guilty celebrating our salvation on the back of The Man’s crucifixion, Easter always puzzled me. What's with the bunnies and why weren’t we chasing little lambs instead and bleating Lamb of God at the top of our voices?

Yes, I had strange notions as a child. Like the time I would start singing the theme song from Centurions (the cartoon for those not born in the Dark Ages like me) every time we came to the parable of the centurion’s servant. A questionable decision as I kept getting sent to detention and at one point, there was talk of either sending me to a therapist or the exorcist.

Anyway, Easter equates lamb to me but it also makes me think of spring when I start breaking out the salad tongs and flit joyously like a dainty fairy from … oh, sorry … Have. To. Stop. Watching. The. Gay. Cult. Movies. By the by, I loved … just luuurrved The Producers. But back to spring and my Pavlov’s doggie response of craving salads during Easter. Typically, I would roast a leg of lamb and pair that with my sugar snap peas with crumbled bacon salad, and mashed potatoes.

This year, for a number of reasons, I just did not feel like lamb. I craved salads. Fresh, light salads. With just enough pertness to pucker my lips yet sufficient flavour to make me smack them with relish. The housemate brought back a couple of pomelos from his mother-in-law’s home. Apparently, he’s not fond of them. He managed to offload one to the neighbour and I subtly revealed that I rather like them. My housemate … he’s quite a bright lad sometimes.

So there I was, the proud owner of one pomelo. I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Pomelo salad. I was salivating just at the thought.

Contrary to some people’s misconception, I have no Thai blood. So I’ve been mistaken for a Thai before … by Thais. In Thailand. But then again, I have been mistaken for Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Indian, Arabic, and what not (even Irish once … now how mothered was that person???). I used to think I should be a spy. Mana Makan … Woman of Mystery. Has a bit of a ring to it, doesn’t it?

But I simply adore Thai food despite my lack of street creds. I even think I would like to retire to Thailand just so I can enjoy the food every day! I do not claim to cook authentic Thai food or know oodles about it but the flavours, aromas, taste, texture and philosophy of Thai cooking speak to every rumbling of my ever hungry stomach.

Most of my salads tend to be Thai-influenced because Thai salads personify all that is fresh, light, savoury and tongue tingling to me. The pomelo salad is an all-time favourite. I am thoroughly addicted to pomelos - my preferred couch potato food. Pshaw on beer nuts, popcorn and pretzels! Give me a bowl of crystalline gems of tart, sweet-with-a-hint-of-bitterness pomelos any time. The tear-drop beads of creamy hued succulence are a pleasurable indulgence as I roll and tease them across my tongue before piercing the taut membrane with a delicate puncture of my teeth. The burst of juicy bliss is enough to send me into a tailspin of eye-rolling ecstasy.

And to think I was not acquainted with this fabulous fruit till my pre-teens. A relative brought it when he was visiting and at first I gave it a wide berth, thinking it was a mutant grapefruit. I hate grapefruit. When I was doing the British Heart Association diet with three of my colleagues (the ole misery loves company and the company loves miserable employees adage is true) and had to eat grapefruit, I literally cried as I spooned each astringent bite of unnatural and cruel punishment into my poor, innocent mouth.

Now, you are probably wondering at my temerity entering the pomelo into this week’s
Weekend Herb Blogging. But MM, you say patronisingly, you must be getting confused. Pomelos are not herbs. Ah, but I am canny and sneaky like a fox. I am entering not the fruit but the skin. Bada bing! The pomelo skin which the Asians use for herbal purposes. See how I did that??? Pretty snazzy, huh? You can’t see it but I’m sporting a smug and really annoying smirk now.

Actually the pomelo is related to the gruesome grapefruit. But how far from the tree it fell! In Indonesa, it is called jeruk bali. In the rest of Asia, it’s also called jabong but I kind of like the sound of the Chinese name for it – youzi. In Latin, it’s citrus maxima – sounds like a gladiator. Hey, fight me! I’m tart like a pomelo, sting like a bee! OK, too much coffee this morning …

While not as ancient as the apple, the pomelo was first christened as such in 1858 but was known to the world before that when a sea captain called Captain Shaddock introduced it to the West Indies as shaddock. I am betting he was Irish. With delusions of grandeur. But the pomelo is actually native to Southeast Asia, namely Malaysia and Indonesia but nowadays, you’ll find the pomelo growing in California, Florida, the Caribbeans and even Israel.

True to its Latin name, the pomelo is the big daddy of all citrus. Apparently the largest pomelo grew to 30 cm in diameter (the length of my ruler!) and weighed in at 10 kg. Show off! The tree can even grow up to 50 feet – probably so the heavy fruits can kill you when dropped from that height. Pummeled by Pomelos, One Man’s Guide to Botanical Warfare.

The rind is super thick and peeling it is a real chore. But worth every plump bead! Bright, pale green or slowly aging yellow, the pomelo skin is softly pitted and feels awfully strange when ripe. I was told by fruit sellers to look out for pomelos with spongy tops - these are ripe and usually sweet. So far, they have not been far wrong. I still get a little creeped out that such a large, heavy and firm-looking fruit should yield like a sponge but since this signals a bounty of lovely tangy-sweet juiciness, I press on.

Below the thick lime green rind is an enormously thick layer of fluffy, doughy pith. I loved playing with these as a child. I would rub them all over my skin as if they were loofahs and “powder” my cheeks with these makeshift powder puffs. The waxy sponginess of it all was a tactile delight to me and I could spend hours just caressing, moulding, and pressing them. I once dyed them to see how absorbent they are. They are. Absorbent that is. I used up all of Aunt Kris’ Dylon. She was not impressed.

Perhaps my pomelo dye bath and my loofah playacting was not that far fetched. The Chinese, being supremely superstitious, would boil the rind and have a ceremonial bath with it to cleanse the body and aura of any evil spirits or energy which might have clung to the person. It is supposed to repel evil. Now why didn’t anyone tell me that when I met the ex-mistake? It is said that this marvellous fruit was first introduced to China around 100 BC. How it got from Malaysia to China is probably a story to rival The Da Vinci Code.

The rind is quite amazing. It is fed raw to patients suffering from excessive coughing and epileptic fits in Southeast Asia, and is also dried and used in a sweet dessert soup to soothe sore throats. It can also be candied just like orange rind and there are even pomelo rind marmalades. I’ve never tried that but I am definitely intrigued.

Pomelos keep fairly well. You may refrigerate them for up to a week to keep them fresh. I wouldn’t know. They seldom last past a day with me. However, I do peel the segments apart, membrane intact, and wrap them in cling wrap to refrigerate for quick snacks and they can last for a few days. Look out for unblemished skins and spongy heads for good pomelos. Did I just say that? Did that sound as bad to you as it does to me?

Besides its fantastic taste, pomelos are also highly nutritious. Because a cup of pomelo only contains 72 calories and almost non-existent cholesterol, fat or sodium, they are a dieter's dream. They make excellent snack food and if you keep the membrane intact till just prior to devouring, they are easily transportable, remaining fresh and juicy. I used to bring these on picnics with my young cousins, nieces and nephews. Kids like to chew on the individual baubles, making them too busy to talk and bug you. A babysitter's blessing.

Pomelo 1 cup - sections
Calories: 72.20
Total fat (g): 0.076
Saturated fat (g): --
Monounsaturated fat (g): --
Potassium (mg): 410.400
Dietary fiber (g): 1.900
Protein (g): 1.444
Carbohydrate (g): 18.278
Cholesterol (mg): 0
Sodium (mg): 1.900
Vitamin C (mg): 115.900

So alright … I cheated. I blogged about the pomelo rind but my recipe uses the fruit. I shamefacedly give you my version of a pomelo salad.

Squid, Pomelo & Green Mango Salad

2 squids
½ pomelo

1 green mango

1 tbsp roasted, salted peanuts – I used the snack ones so I can have the leftovers with beer! Hic!

3 garlic cloves, sliced

¼ red onion, sliced – you can also use two small shallots

2 cups coriander, coarsely shredded by hand
Juice of 1 large lime
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp fish sauce
About 3 tsp palm sugar
2 really hot red chilli padi, minced
Ground black pepper
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
Peanut oil

1. Lob off the top of the pomelo and slice fairly deeply into the skin in segments – just like peeling a very thick orange. Dig right in till you feel the fruit and peel the skin off. Break into segments and reserve half to snack on or for a pomelo dessert. You only need half a pomelo.

2. Peel off the tough membrane and fan out the corners to release the beads of pomelo. Break them apart in chunks and loose beads to give it a more rustic and complex textural taste sensation in the salad.

3. Peel the green mango. Mine was little too ripe for my liking so it was sweeter and squishier than expected. Try to get the less ripe for easier handling and tartness. I decided to try to cut it the Thai way, which is to hack vertically at the mango lengthwise and then slice underneath and across it to get the thin juliennes. If the thought of potential finger dismemberment scares you, just grate it on the largest hole or cut it into juliennes.

4. Fry the onions in hot oil till golden brown and crispy. Drain and set aside

5. Fry the sliced garlic in the same oil till golden brown and crispy. Drain and set aside to cool.

6. Crush the peanuts coarsely in the mortar & pestle

7. Add the fried garlic and crush with the peanuts till semi-finely crushed. Do not crush it till it is a powder. You want texture. Texture, you hear?? This toasty, smokey, nutty and earthy concoction is something I came up with one day and grew addicted to. I sprinkle this on everything from salads to rice to mash and even to encrust meat with a coriander paste. You can make extras and store them in airtight container in the fridge.

8. Right, let’s get the icky stuff out of the way. Remove the tentacles from the tubes of the squid and reserve this, making sure to pull any “innards”, the hard “teeth” and gross stuff from it and washing gently to cleanse. Pull out the hard, transparent spine.

9. Here’s where it got interesting. One squid had the lovely roe which I was loathed to lose. I peeled the two “wings” from both squids and removed the purplish membrane from the barren one. Split it right down the middle lengthwide and spread that out. I scored the inside of the spread-out tube with diagonal criss-cross with my trusty knife, making sure not to cut through. I cleaned this thoroughly and set aside.

10. I sliced the roeful squid into thick rings about 1 inch thick, making sure not to lose the roe

11. Pound the Szechuan peppercorns in the mortar & pestle till fairly finely crushed

12. Sprinkle the squids in about 1 tsp of salt (don’t worry that it will be too salty as it will balance out in the salad), 3 dashes of pepper, about 1/2 tbsp oil and the crushed Szechuan peppercorns. Mix gently to combine without squishing the roe or bursting the ink sacs on the tentacles.

13. Heat a grill pan till smoking and char grill the squid till cooked through. You know this when it turns opaque and curls up. If you are using the squid with roe, make sure that the roe is also cooked through. The scored squid will not curl up as much because of the scoring so don’t worry.

14. Remove from heat. Cut the scored squid into bite sizes and set aside with the rest

15. Mix the pomelo and green mango in a salad bowl and toss in the coriander

16. Mix the fish sauce with the palm sugar, the juices of the lime and lemon (you can use just lime but I had ½ a lemon left over so I decided to use it), and the minced chilli padi in a bowl. Taste and adjust if required. Remember that the pomelo and the green mango are tart and there is quite a lot of pomelo so your sauce should be fairly vibrant in order to stand up to this assertive combination

17. Pour over the fruits and toss well to mix

18. Spoon salad into a platter and plate the squid on top

19. Sprinkle the crispy onions and the garlic-peanut crumble over the top

Needless to say, I finished the entire salad at one sitting. But that’s all I ate for lunch and it was good, even if I say so myself. Wonderfully healthy, ebullient with the freshness of spring, piquant, sweet, spicy, sea salty, herbalicious and immensely satisfying, this salad scores a 10/10 for taste and health.

You can make this with grilled prawns but I noticed so many people making prawns and pomelo or green mango salad recently that I wanted a change. I also wanted a firmer, more toothsome bite and a different sweetness to balance the tartness of the fruits. I think the squid salad fulfilled that admirably and is definitely a salad I would repeat again and again.

Just so you know, I did not forget about the pomelo rind. I am drying it as I post this to see if I can use it for a sweet herbal tea for sore throats. See, Kalyn, I did not cheat … much.