We love our fruit with something kicking. Be it some sweetened plum powder with salt or some thick gooey palm sugar sauce called Rojak Sauce (bumbu rujak).
On the street side in our city, there are many rojak vendors pushing little carts around. There are several versions too. Rojak tumbuk kacang is the fruit rojak with young plantain banana with roasted peanut in the rojak sauce. Very tangy, and can be very spicy with extra shrimp paste. The simpler fruit rojak is the most basic rojak sauce made from palm sugar block, tamarind, shrimp paste and fresh chili. The other variation include the way the fruit is cut, shredded or big chunk cut, preserved or fresh.
Since the rojak sauce is extremely sweet and sour plus spicy, men don’t think too much of it, I never know why. But we girls adore them! There’s nothing better than a tea time with fruit rojak bought, iced tea and some prawn crackers with your girlfriends. Nibbling away and gossiping the neighbors, colleagues or the street cats. Most vendors only start selling after lunch and by 5pm, they’ll be all gone. These traditional rojak vendors don’t have cooler in their tricycle, so you wouldn’t want to buy fruit that has been out on the humid street for more than 6 hours. But all the sauce from these traditional vendors are made to order – meaning, they start grinding away in their mortal and pestle when you order them. That might take a while.
For those lucky few households with Javanese helpers, homemade rojak sauce is only a phone call away. Whenever I was away on long trip, I long for homemade rojak sauce. With a handful of basic ingredients found in Asian groceries, it is easy to make! Add some cut fruits, they are ready to be served. Dip away – keep the iced-tea close by.
Fruit Rojak Sauce
200 g palm sugar (gula merah/gula melaka), shaved
6 g (12) thai bird's eye chili (green chili)
15 g (1 teaspoon) tamarind pulp (asam jawa)
1.5 g (1/4 tsp) shrimp paste, toasted
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp warm water
50 g ground roasted peanut (optional)
Combine all ingredients (except peanuts and water) in a mortar. Beat with pestle slowly until shaved sugar starting to melt, about 15 minutes. Add water. Alternatively, blend everything with electric blender / food processor until fine
Serve with cut fruits and ground peanut.
Refrigerates well, can last up to 2 weeks in tight container
It is common for rojak sauce to be served with fruits with hard texture and crunchy to bite, such as jicama, cucumber, wax apples or guava. I think the whole purpose of the rojak sauce is to make plain fruit edible.