Localising your palate

Cutting carbs Week 4

Hey, peeps!

We have finally reached the 4th week of our Cutting Carb series! While I haven’t lost much weight because I’m also gaining muscles from my workout, I honestly feel ‘lighter’ and more refreshed. I also want to thank those who have been very supportive throughout this excruciating journey to health, haha! It hasn’t been easy to see everybody around me eating ‘nasi lemak’, ‘charkuetiow’ and ‘roti canai’, while I’ve been munching green aliens that disguised themselves as healthy leaves. 

(Featured Photo Credit: Canva PRO)

Anyway, some friends actually reached out and said that eating greens like butterhead lettuce, arugula, kale, baby spinach and mizuna sort of burnt a hole in their pocket, which to a certain extent, I quite agree, especially when the organic ones are left on the supermarket shelves. 

Apparently, most Malaysians aren’t too crazy with pesto sauce either, it being basil-based. Yes, but if you need to douse carbonara sauce every time you eat your salad, then that would add more calories from the cream and cheese. Or, when I suggested a drizzle of lemon juice to enhance the salad flavour, some found it a bit too sour for their liking. 

Asian salad is equally healthy, peeps!
(Thank you, Canva PRO!)

So, the best next option is to localise our salad palate. 

I noticed that while vegetables are best eaten raw to preserve their nutrients, most of the local options don’t really taste that great uncooked. So, let’s see some of our local vegetables that we can enjoy cooked AND uncooked, just to encourage you to eat more greens. 

Kangkung or water spinach

Okay, this is definitely a must-have when you go to a tom yum place. Stir fry the leaves in belacan (shrimp paste) with some anchovies and there you have it, one of Malaysia’s favourite side dishes. Still, I’d recommend you to go easy on the belacan and anchovies as they may increase your cholesterol level. 

This Makcik knows more about vegetables, why not ask her?
(Thank you, Canva PRO!)

Spinach vs Amaranth

Apparently what we have been calling ‘spinach’ to describe ‘bayam’ is actually ‘amaranth’. Anyway, the best recipes to stay healthy are definitely the ‘masak air’ and ‘bening’ recipes – which are basically, soupy stuff. Just skip the excess oil and salt, and you’re good. 

Kaduk leaves 

From a distance, commonly mistaken as betel leaves but they taste so much better than betel leaves. I should know, I was forced to eat betel leaves at a wedding once, supposedly for good luck! Anyway, there is no widely used English term for kaduk leaves except wild betel. Even so, it’s still not quite as accurate as Piper sarmentosum. They’re the same leaves used to make miang kham, a Thai appetiser which I totally love! Sadly, when I was at the supermarket the other day, I couldn’t find a nice stack of kaduk leaves that was fresh enough!

Oooohhh, miang kham!
(Thank you, Canva PRO!)
…. vs Reality….

Turkey berries

I bet the Malays are wondering, “Apo ko bondo Turkey berry ni?” When I was writing this entry that I learned, Turkey berries are actually terung pipit, something I love to pile on my plate whenever I go to this nice Kelantanese restaurant in Pantai Dalam. Dip them in budu (fermented anchovy) sauce and all is well with the world again! Oops, now you know I love eating Kelantanese food!

Okra or ladies’ finger

Yes, the debate continues – ladies’ finger? Lady’s finger? Lady’s fingers? So, I’ll stick to okra! I swear, other than the spicy stir fry recipe, I also enjoy eating this with budu sauce. But the risky bit about having a nice budu sauce next to your ulam (raw vegetables) is the temptation to enjoy them with piping hot white rice! So, remember this mantra – cut carbs, cut carbs, cut carbs!

Another local favourite!
(Thank you, Canva PRO!)

Banana bud

While bananas can be cheap, the buds can be slightly more expensive. I mean, let’s face it, there’s only one banana bud per tree and the trees only bear fruits once. Hence, the Malay proverb that sounds like ‘Pisang berbuah dua kali’. Literally, it means, the tree bears fruits twice but figuratively, it refers to an unwanted incident that should not happen again. Just boil this flowery baby and stir fry with chili and onion or just eat it on its own WITHOUT the rice. 


No, it’s PENNYWORT, not PENNYWORTH! Let’s get that right. Malaysians generally love the pegaga leaves or pennyworts with a serving of sambal belacan, a type of spicy chili paste that goes well with EVERYTHING under the Malaysian sun, haha! Although, I’m not quite a fan, I suppose these are good too as they contain high protein to help with weight loss. 

Experiment with everything you see in the market, you’ll find something you love!
(Thank you, Canva PRO!)

Actually, there are so many local vegetables that you can find very easily at the market at affordable prices if you’re looking at lowering your grocery costs while staying healthy. Just keep testing out a different ingredient every couple of days to motivate yourselves to eat better. 

Here’s something I tried to add more local flavours in my salad. The Pondok Pondok Brand has a variety of chili paste with different flavours that give even the most ‘mat salleh’ kind of salad a delicious kick! My favourite is the Sambal Udang Kedondong, which is not spicy at all. Just remember that the Pondok Pondok ready-to-eat sambal are all natural without preservatives, so best to consume them within a week (well, a bottle never lasts longer than 3 days in our home, but…) and keep it refrigerated upon opening. 

One of my favourite sambal ever!
(Thank you, Pondok Pondok!)

It’s also a tad oily to ensure the freshness of the taste, so just take a little bit of everything and add to your greens. So, either I use the sambal for my chicken breast or just use it as a dip. 

This is what I call an East meets West salad fusion!
Can’t go wrong with this Sambal Udang Kedondong!

So, here’s my verdict! 

I’ll continue to cut carbs but allow myself to have some simple pleasures in life. I mean, how long can I really go on without my nasi lemak and pisang goreng? Yikes! I’m only human!


Paris Ashiqin

See? I’m dipping happily!


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