Many would consider Fruit Rojak to be a national favourite. This colourful, crunchy dish is often found in hawker stalls or by road peddlers, by the street. It’s filled with fruit and vegetables and drizzled with a tasty sauce that brings all the flavours together.
Every major race in Malaysia has made its interpretation of the dish. With some states (i.e. Penang) becoming famous for making the best kind.
What is Fruit Rojak?
Fruit Rojak – rojak being the colloquial Malay term for “a mix” – is a traditional Southeast Asian dish made from a mixture of fruits and vegetables. No surprise there.
Though its origins are firmly rooted in Javanese and Indonesian culture, rojak has always been popular in places with active Malay communities- and Malaysia is no exception to this.
In Malaysia, Fruit Rojak typically refers to those made by the Chinese community. This version of fruit rojak consists of cucumbers, pineapple, mango, benkuang, bean sprouts, deep-fried tofu, and chewy youtiao. These ingredients are chopped into bite-sized pieces and tossed together with a thick sweet and spicy dressing before it is finally garnished with chopped peanuts.
The dish has layers upon layers of textures and flavours- from soft to crunchy, to sticky to tangy. In Penang, the dish adds guava, squid fritters and honey to the mix, giving the dressing a more slimy consistency than usual.
Though there is no clear origin story as to who rojak belongs to, there are traces of the dish leading back to 901CE, during the era of the Mataram Kingdom in Central Java. Back then, transcripts have the meal written as rurujak, and only later did it evolve into the spelling ‘rujak’.
There are theories that people were eating rujak in the region because of the seasonal tropical fruits (mango, apple) found in the Malay archipelago. To reduce the sourness of these raw fruits, villagers would often pair them with palm sugar and salt, which gave way to the use of dressing as a way to provide the fruits more flavour.
Interestingly enough, people also used rujak in pre-natal ceremonies in the Javanese community. This was because locals believed that sour fruits, like mango, were often craved by pregnant women. Whether there’s any truth to that is up for debate. But regardless, it cements rujak as a great dish in the landscape of Indonesian culture.
Of course, with the process of immigration, the dish travelled to the shores of neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Singapore, where adaptations have been made to make it uniquely local.
Variations of the dish
Within the Indian-Muslim community itself, a similar type of rojak dish takes centre stage.
Called pasembur or Indian Rojak, the dish is not unlike the regular fruit and vegetable mix. But it includes other ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, squid and prawn fritters, and shredded yam. The sauce carries a stronger peanut flavour and is spicier than its usual sweet and tangy counterpart.
Rather than obvious distinguishers, rojak sellers generally like to incorporate unique ingredients into their recipes. Some prefer to make it protein-heavy with more fried seafood fritters, while others keep it meatless by adding leafy greens like kang kung or beancurd.
Where can you Find Fruit Rojak in Malaysia?
Overall, Fruit Rojak isn’t hard to find in Malaysia. Every neighbourhood probably has that one uncle who sells it from his mobile van. Otherwise, you can find yourself a plate of fruit rojak in most hawker centres and food courts. To scour the city for the closest rojak stall to you, head over to foodpanda now.