Do packaged herbs ever go on strike at the back of your fridge? Now, thanks to Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad, bundles of herbs can finally go to work in a dish that everyone will love.
When herbs go on strike
I wonder how many partially used packages of fresh herbs lay wilting at the back of fridges across America. I’ve certainly been there. Even though I “store” my herbs in the garden, disgruntled leaves occasionally congregate behind the eggs and mustard (the few remaining upright stems looking like picket signs).
The problem? Outside of a putting basil in pesto or parsley in tabbouleh, it’s hard to use most fresh herbs up.
To give our herbs a chance, we need to rethink how we use them. A pinch here or there doesn’t really do the trick when it comes to adding flavor or using them up. Standing them in a jar of fresh water helps tremendously (sometimes adding a couple of weeks of life to them).
Another idea is to find a recipe that makes good use of the herbs.
Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad
Malaysia teaches that we have to use herbs with as much confidence as we use lettuce – by the handful. Only then will we get that burst of garden freshness we all crave come springtime and into the summer.
There are many versions of Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad. Here’s the basic formula: Room temperature rice + lots of fresh herbs + seasoning = easy summertime eating.
What herbs you add is fairly flexible except for the most rigid traditionalists. Choose between cilantro, culantro, and rau ram; between basil and Thai basil; and between chives and green onion.
The benefits of making an herb salad start before the first bite: Slicing into the greenery blooms their scent into every nook and cranny. Shut your eyes and you might think you’ve wandered into a sprawling, secret garden. The bouquet is a whimsy of basil, mint, limes, lemongrass, basil, cilantro, chives, and kaffir lime leaves… A crush of garlic, ginger, fish sauce, peanuts, and toasted coconut seals the deal.
Herbed Rice Salad makes a great back yard supper, particularly nice with tomato wedges or a couple of hard-boiled eggs. If you’d like to sweat after the sun goes down, add thinly sliced Thai bird chili peppers.
Traditional Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad recipes include dried shrimp but since Ava is vegetarian we’ve kept them off the ingredients list. Substitute some salt for the fish sauce if desired.
Oh and …
About a week after I made this salad, I opened the fridge and pulled the leftover herbs form their mason jar of water… They were still perky thanks to the water and I was able to make a second batch. This time I didn’t measure. There was significantly more mint and basil… I only had one lime… but the rice salad was still wonderful.
And I didn’t lose any herbs to the fridge.
Enjoy with an equally stunning view… like this one in Malaysia: