I think I first tasted a version of this salad at a Cebu restaurant several years ago. The first memory was that it was cold, and second, delicious. So I tried to figure out what it was, only to have the entire office crew look at me a little funny, saying it was just a simple “kilawin of langka” — kilawin referring to a style of preparation/sauce used on lots of stuff including kinilaw na isda or ceviche. So I immediately set out to make my own and over the past few years, the recipe has evolved slightly and this is how we do it today.
First of all, let me first say what I like about the salad. It is extremely economical, since unripe jackfruit is cheap and plentiful during certain times of the year. It is served cold and as such, incredibly refreshing and the perfect foil for fatty fried or grilled seafood or meats. If “properly made”, in my opinion, it has a terrific mouthfeel, and feels rich without being “ngilngig” or overly rich, because vinegar modulates the freshly squeezed coconut cream. And finally, it has tiny bursts of flavor and bite from julienned strips of young ginger, shallots, chilies, etc. You can create a large batch of it ahead of time, let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two, and feed a small army of guests. And oddly, nearly everyone who has tasted it has asked how it is made… :)
As with any recipe on this blog, the key to success has to be the freshness and quality of your ingredients. Start with sub-standard goods, you’ll get a sub-standard dish. I merely “assemble” in many ways, and it’s the ingredients that matter most. Purchase some freshly cut young (unripe) jackfruit in the market. Have them cut it for you into rougly 1/4 inch slices, roughly an inch squared or slightly larger. Do NOT purchase pre-cut langka if possible, and do not purchase it in thick french fry style cuts. Trust me, a pro langka peeler and slicer will know how to do this. Buy your other ingredients, particularly the shredded coconut to make gata and head home. Back at home, and hopefully within an hour or two of the langka being sliced (better yet if you do this at home, assuming you know how), blanch/boil the langka in a large pot of water until tender and drain(roughly 8-12 minutes or so). You may wish to plunge the boiled langka into an ice bath to stop further cooking, though I admit I rarely do this myself. :) When the langka is cool, you are ready to mix it with the dressing or sauce…
Make a good coconut cream by adding coconut or sugar cane vinegar to your grated coconut and squeeze like its the neck of some twerp who has just recklessly ruined your most prized personal possession. In other words, make a first pressing of coconut cream, but no water, just vinegar. Then do a second pressing of coconut milk with some water and vinegar mixed in. You will now have two consistencies of coconut cream and milk. Slice some native tomatoes (a mixture of half-ripe and ripe), some shallots (the red ones) and julienne some young ginger and toss them in a large mixing bowl together with the cooled langka. Add some chopped chilies if you desire some spice. Season generously with salt (others sometimes add patis), add some coconut cream, then some coconut milk until you get to the consistency you prefer. Taste it. Add some vinegar or other seasonings until you have it just right. Boiled langka is bland, so you need to season well. And if you happen to have pickled japanese ginger (like the stuff they serve with a plate of sushi), slice it up thinly and add it to the dish. We did this last week. And I think it was the best version of the salad we have ever made. Garnish with chopped wansoy or cilantro or coriander leaves if you desire. Chill and serve.