It’s not often that I come across a salad made out of flowers from a tree (katuday), water spinach from a swamp (kangkong), male winter squash flowers (bulaklak ng kalabasa) and tomatoes (kamatis). In fact, the first time I tasted this salad was just a few months ago on a trip to the Ilocos region. It was served to us at Sitio Remedios and it was one of the few good things about our stay at that resort. Once back in Manila, I vowed to try and replicate this wonderful salad and I daresay I not only replicated it, I liked our home version better. I know this recipe will strike many of you as being bizarre or possibly odd-tasting, but let me tell you, it is one of the best pinoy dishes I have tasted this year. One of the best! Thanks to the cook of Sitio Remedios for the inspiration, and here is Marketman’s recipe and critical tips for a super KKKK salad…
Purchase the finest (freshest) ingredients (katuday, kangkong, kalabasa flowers and kamatis). Next, remove the stamen(?) in the middle of the katuray flowers and shred each flower into say 3-4 pieces. Wash this carefully and set aside. Next cut small pieces of kangkong (I used chinese kangkong with the smller leaves), using only the tips for aesthetic reasons, wash well and set aside. Remove the stamens from the kalabasa flowers and shred into 3-4 pieces per flower. Leave about half of the squash flowers whole but with stamens also removed. Slice a few small tomatoes into medium sized pieces. Next boil water in a medium sized that is about half full. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl (half ice cubes and half water). Do not skip ice bath step! If you don’t do it the dish will suffer. Trust me on this. And few Ilocanos probably bother with the ice bath. But its worth it. Blanch the katuray flowers for about 1-2 minutes in the boiling water. Remove and immediately plunge into the ice bath. Remove the katuray and do the same for the squash flowers. Then the kangkong. Drain these well and if you are a bit anal, dry on some paper towels.
Next in your serving dish, toss all of the ingredients including the sliced tomatoes. The balance of greens and flowers and fruit is up to you; but I used about 4 parts kangkong, 2 parts squash flowers, 1 part katuray and 2 parts tomatoes. A lot of this will depend on your personal likes and dislikes regarding the vegetables in the salad, but I also tried to balance the ingredients so that it looked good as well. Put this in the fridge until chilled, or at least an hour before serving. Next, make your salad dressing. Traditionally, I believe the Ilocanos use their fish bagoong and some native vinegar. I altered this a bit as I find the after taste of the fish bagoong a bit strong. I simply mixed Ilocano vinegar with some good patis and the juice of one kalamansi and salt and pepper, then tossed the salad with the dressing just before serving.
This salad was unusually good. The textures were unexpected and very interesting. The coldness of the dish will be a surprise for first timers. The flavors range from sweet to ever so slightly bitter, texture from crunchy (kangkong stems) to mushy. The salad was fresh, light, bracing, and incredibly delicious. I am amazed that this salad doesn’t show up in more restaurant menus. It was a total revelation. I LOVED IT. And a word for folks who make this for the first time. Follow the tips in this post. Use an ice bath, toss in proportions that suit you, dress the salad at the last minute and serve it as a complement to fried or grilled dishes dishes such as fish, bagnet, etc. This is definitely among our favorite pinoy salads now, along with:
Tomato & Red Egg Salad
Grilled Eggplant Salad
Pako Salad / Fiddlehead Ferns
Mustasa Salad with Bagoong at Kalamansi
Green Mango Salad/Relish
Paho Salad with Tomatoes and Onions
Kinilaw na Guso at Lato / Seaweed Salad
Cucumber Salad with Visayan Vinaigrette