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When life hands you mandarin oranges, make these ambrosial salads

The ambrosial mandarin orange and rocket salad with sunflower seeds. – Pictures by CK Lim

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 – We are a week into the Year of the Metal Ox and thus far, it has been a bountiful year. A bounty of mandarin oranges, that is.

For some of us who are spending Chinese New Year home alone – socially distancing, reunion meals via Zoom and keeping our loved ones safe – it can be quite a challenge to tackle all the festive treats in the house.

Pineapple tarts are usually the first to go, their buttery and crumbly pastry shells melting away in our mouths to reveal their saccharine and jammy hearts. Stacks of bakkwa disappear swiftly too, and before you know it, you’ve devoured the final slice.

Anyone who deigns to toss yeesang by themselves (or perhaps with loved ones, via synchronised FaceTime lohsang sessions) would eventually finish even the leftovers stored in airtight containers in the fridge.

Have a surplus of mandarin oranges? Make a salad!
Have a surplus of mandarin oranges? Make a salad!

By the end of the first week of Chinese New Year, usually all the good stuff is gone. Yet here we are, you and me and so many others, left with a surplus of mandarin oranges that seem to last forever.

Perhaps it’s all the peeling that is involved. It’s always more fun when a parent or a child or a spouse or a lover does the work, and you just have to accept each sweet segment, relish its juiciness, chew and swallow. And then wait for more.

Mandarin oranges taste the best when someone else does the peeling...
Mandarin oranges taste the best when someone else does the peeling…

But when you’re at home alone, the mandarin oranges seem to just stay there in their formidable heap, refusing to dwindle in number.

So, when life hands you mandarin oranges (way too many of them), what can you do but make something else from them? How about a pair of ambrosial salads, one influenced by a classic Western salad dressing and the other with a more local touch?

They both taste incredible… and are certainly an incredibly efficient way with which to make a dent in that towering heap of mandarin oranges.

Kong Hei Fatt Choy, and may you all be well and happy always!

A PAIR OF MANDARIN ORANGE SALADS

I have already suggested one salad with mandarin oranges as its main feature in the weekend before Chinese New Year. That particular Auspicious Salad benefits from having the citrus elements marinating with the other fruits such as the sliced red and green apples so the flavours may marry better.

The two new salads I’m sharing here, however, are quick recipes and their refreshing notes come from tossing the ingredients and dressing together and serving immediately. Expect something crispier with lighter flavours.

The idea here is that we are all probably feeling a tad bloated after all the festive feasting and need something that won’t further burden our bellies. Being easy and swift to assemble can only be a big angpow-sized bonus, yes?

A simple salad dressing with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
A simple salad dressing with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

The classic balsamic dressing is typically made with only extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Normal balsamic vinegar can be a tad strong tasting so we can use a sweet and tangy white balsamic vinegar (made from white Trebbiano grapes) or milder white wine vinegar.

For a local flavour, try adding papaya and fresh coconut.
For a local flavour, try adding papaya and fresh coconut.

For the second salad, no real dressing or vinaigrette is required since the papaya can and will release quite a bit of its juices. A touch of honey and cinnamon will elevate everything though; both pair really well with mandarin oranges and prevent the papaya from overpowering the citrus.

SALAD #1. MANDARIN ORANGE & ROCKET SALAD WITH SUNFLOWER SEEDS

Ingredients

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 mandarin oranges, pith and seeds removed

Half a grapefruit, pith and seeds removed

150g rocket leaves, rinsed and spun dry

Handful of toasted sunflower seeds

Method

Add the ingredients for the white balsamic dressing – the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper – into a jar. Cover the jar tightly with its lid. Shake the jar well until all the ingredients are well combined.

Grapefruit and mandarin oranges are a citrus match made in heaven.
Grapefruit and mandarin oranges are a citrus match made in heaven.

Break down the peeled mandarin oranges into segments and cut the grapefruit into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl, together with the rocket leaves.

Drizzle with the white balsamic dressing. Toss until the salad is well coated with the dressing.

Sprinkle some toasted sunflower seeds for extra crunch and aroma.
Sprinkle some toasted sunflower seeds for extra crunch and aroma.

Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with toasted sunflower seeds. Serve immediately.

SALAD #2. MANDARIN ORANGE & PAPAYA SALAD WITH FRESH COCONUT

Ingredients

2 tablespoons runny honey

2 teaspoons cinnamon powder

2 mandarin oranges, pith and seeds removed

Half a ripe papaya, skin and seeds removed

Fresh coconut meat from one coconut, cut into strips

Optional: Handful of toasted coconut flakes

Method

In a small bowl, mix the honey and cinnamon powder together till well combined.

Break down the peeled mandarin oranges into segments and cut the papaya into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl.

Drizzle with the honey and cinnamon dressing. Toss until the salad is well coated with the dressing.

Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with strips of fresh coconut meat and, if desired, toasted coconut flakes. Serve immediately.

For more Weekend Kitchen and other slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.

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