Rojak doesn't sound like it should work, but this fruit and vegetable salad dish with fritters absolutely does. It's rojak's addictive prawn and chilli sauce that makes it pop, providing sweet, sour and spicy all at once.
However, if you're a rojak veteran and feel like something a bit different, som tam is another vibrant, moreish salad – so good that Orchard's Som Tam is named after it. Tangy, unripe green papaya and chopped tomatoes are doused in a tongue-tingling dressing that will become your newest craving.
The classic: rojak
Malaysian rojak is a steadfast favourite across eastern Asia. The sauce takes your senses on a wild ride, with a distinctive tang that makes people order it again and again. It's a busy dish, but a good rojak is finely balanced and promises to take you from place to place with little to no whiplash.
The dish's name means 'eclectic mix' in colloquial Malay – a spot-on description. Rojak is a melting pot of culinary influences, with the heat of the dish springing from Indian curries, while the rest of the ingredients are undoubtedly Singaporean and Malaysian. Rojak reflects its cultural diversity by bringing together a whole host of ingredients into a deliciously harmonious whole. The fruits and fritters are often topped with crushed peanuts too – and places like Rojak Line specialise in making rojak for everyone to enjoy.
The alternative: som tam
Thai salad staple, som tam, is chiefly made from crunchy, unripe papaya and – like rojak – takes fruit and vegetables out for a savoury spin, creating a dish both cooling and fiery. Som tam comes from the Laos-bordering area of Thailand, known for its acres of papaya groves and liberal use of chillies. When som tam came to Bangkok, it quickly became one of the country's most popular dishes.
Slightly tart, pale green papaya is shredded or finely sliced, with juicy chopped tomatoes and bite-sized chunks of green beans adding extra crunch and colour. Tamarind, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, lime juice and sugar cane paste are pounded together in a mortar and pestle to make a spicy, sour, sweet dressing. And fiery birds' eye chillies are either gently bruised or mercilessly pounded in the mortar – depending on how much heat you've asked for.