BY HELEN ONG
This is our very own local salad, sometimes known as “Indian Rojak”. It is sometimes referred to as “cheh hoo”, literally translated to “green fish” ie raw fish, because that used to be one of the constituents. Originally these were two different dishes, but time and cultures have blended the two, and they are now more or less the same thing.
Whatever name you know it by, up here in Penang, pasembor is the mixture of sliced-up dough and cucuk udang (prawn fritters), bean curd, boiled potatoes and hard-boiled egg served atop a bed of roughly-julienned vegetables, primarily cucumber and bangkwang (yam bean).
It is served with a dressing that is totally unique to the east – a large, loving ladleful of thick, rich, sweet, reddish-brown spicy sauce made with Ubi Keledek (sweet potato) and chillis.
As soon as the salad is served to you, toss it to ensure the sauce mixes well with all the layers. It also softens the crispy fritter edges and flavours the vegetables at the same time. Although slightly sweet for some, the combination of carbohydrates and vegetables (and grease notwithstanding), is quite tasty and relatively healthy, as there is plenty of fresh crispy greens.
Like other hawker foods, it’s available everywhere, and of course practically every hawker centre, along with Mamak stalls and food courts, many with their own loyal clients who have been eating there regularly for the past few decades.
Some are so well known that they have been featured in various food and travel programmes on TV.
Pasembor is a wonderful potpourri of all things Malaysian, and particularly popular as a tea time treat.
Helen Ong is a self-confessed foodie who loves to hunt down the best of Penang. She is the author of the book Great Dining in Penang. Check out her blog on www.helenong.com