Salads are the first thing that pop into your mind when you think of the words, ‘diet’ and ‘health’, followed by a very unappealing visual of green, mushy leaves that makes you scrunch up your nose. Despite that, we still order and make salads, day in and day out, simply because it helps most of us achieve our target weight since salads are widely known to have the least amount of calories contained in a dish. No surprise there!
However, one question does come to mind. Do salads have to be unappetizing and more like a torture tool just to lose a couple of kilos? Well, Malaysian celebrity chef and Butterkicap’s Culinary Director, Nik Michael Imran, says otherwise. Growing up, Chef Nik loves his salads and the reason for his love of salads is, yes you guessed it, variety. A combination of colourful vegetables and a flavour-packed dressing can make even the most hardcore meat-eater feel tempted.
Salad Dressing 101
No one wants a soggy, wet salad, Chef Nik included. In the case of salads, Chef Nik stresses the importance of perfecting the basics. Preparing salads are a no-brainer. It’s all about texture and taste. So, how do we make a perfect salad?
His years of eating and making salads has made Chef Nik realize that there are two important rules when preparing salads.
1 – Follow the Golden Ratio
There are thousands of ‘best’ salad dressing or vinaigrette recipes you can find on the web. However, the best recipe, according to Chef Nik, is the one that follows the 25:75 golden ratio.
The 25:75 golden ratio is referring to the measurements of the vinegar and oil used (the two main ingredients in a dressing or vinaigrette). The oil helps to ‘flow’ through your salad while the vinegar gives the punchy, sour flavour typical of a salad dressing. However, Chef Nik mentioned that having just the oil and vinegar is only halfway through your journey in making the best dressing ever.
2 – Don’t forget the emulsifier
Another important component of the salad dressing is the emulsifier. An emulsifier helps to combine both the oil and vinegar, which, if you remember your Year 4 science lessons, have different densities and will separate. An emulsifier can be mustard or even an egg yolk, as long as it can thicken and combine the oil and vinegar together. With the emulsifier, the oil and the vinegar will not drip off the leaves and pool down under the salad bed but instead coat the leaves in your salad evenly for a more flavourful bite.
Chef Nik’s Favourite Salad
Making salads require an imaginative mind. We need to think outside of the salad bowl. For that, we need to ponder on the question, ‘What makes a salad, salad?’ Chef Nik’s answer might echo your thoughts as well. According to him, a salad can be any combination of different vegetables and herbs that are available locally or commercially, mixed with a dressing of your choice, be it a as simple as a splash of olive oil or a complicated one, like a tahini-turmeric dressing.
Salads are a representation of your individuality. Whatever combination of flavours that works for you is the best way to go. After all, you are not impressing anyone else but yourself because you will be the one to eat it.
Ready in 10 Minutes!
Growing up in a big family, eating meals is like a ritual to Chef Nik. Like in most Malaysian households, eating as a family is actually spending quality time together and most memories, bad or good, are made while eating. One of Chef Nik’s fondest memory growing up is eating salads usually made with this honey mustard dressing at home. A practice he does until today.
The subtle citrus-y note of the pegaga and the fragrant lemon-like smell of the daun gajus brings a zing to the salad and so refreshing that you can’t help but eat a second helping. This recipe does not have any measurements. Let your taste buds decide!
- Asian Pennywort (Pegaga)
- Cashew leaves
- Slices of cucumber, sliced length-wise and salted
- Cherry tomatoes, cut into wedges and salted
- Coral lettuce leaves
- Romaine lettuce
b) Kuah ‘dressing’
- 1 egg yolk
- Wholegrain or seeded mustard
- Sea salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
a) Preparing the salad dressing
- In a small bottle or bowl, add in the egg yolk, mustard, honey, vinegar, sea salt and olive oil.
- If you are using a bottle, put the lid on tightly and shake till all the ingredients are well-mixed. If you are using a bowl, use a whist and mix gently.
b) Assembling your salad
- In a large bowl, add all the vegetables and ulam. Make sure you don’t put too much of the vegetables until the bowl as it will become packed and dense. This is important to ensure the dressing can flow freely and coat the vegetables and ulam evenly.
- Pour in the honey mustard dressing. If you are not an expert, you can pour it in, little by little. The most important thing is, that you coat the leaves evenly and lightly. Too much salad dressing will resulted to a very ‘wet’ salad and wilted leaves.
- Once the salad is well coated, use a pair of tongs to place your salad onto a plate and you are done!
Eating Well for Wholesome Wellness
Eating well is just one aspect of living well and healthy. In the end of the day, it is all about perspective. As how Chef Nik Michael has learned the art of perfecting salads by being creative, you can do the same as well!
Learn more about wellness by tuning to the “Focus on Wellness” sharing session, organized by the Oxford & Cambridge Society Malaysia on YouTube at 8pm tonight for a lively discussion on wellness and living with a great panel of experts in different fields, including Chef Nik Michael Imran himself.
Eat well, live healthy!