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Ensaladang Katuray

There’s no question the cuisine of the Philippines has some pretty bizarre eats, at least coming from a western mind. Not to single out P.I., as all around the globe there’s many dishes guaranteed to surprise you on a gastronomic level; that is depending on what surprises you.

But come on now, Balut? That’s crazy. Dinuguan? Also out of the ordinary, as far as stews go; at least in my mind, and perhaps yours, too. Yet both absolutely delicious in their own right, at least to the palate of the beholder.

Which brings us today to Ensaladang Katuray, being essentially a salad made using Katuray, a.k.a. Corkwood Tree flower, combined with tomato and onions, then seasoned with a dressing of Bagoong and vinegar.

While I wouldn’t label it particularly “extreme” or “bizarre”, now are we not only EATING FLOWERS in a dish named for it, but one that’s seasoned with a an EXTREMELY PUNGENT & SALTY fermented fish sauce in the form of Bagoong? That’s CRAZY! Right?

Not really, actually, as you’ll soon find out. Read on.

As you see, Katuray, pronounced “kah-too-rye” looks like any other flower you probably would NEVER consider eating, and perhaps not even use for sewing a lei, as they’re actually quite frail, not being able to hold up for lei duty.


Photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr

Yet somehow, the Filipinos found a way of turning this Corkwood Tree flower into an edible commodity. Which to me appears to be a Godsend, as from what I’ve been told, Katuray brings down your blood pressure, a positive effect I surely could use, as I’m currently on meds to regulate that.

With that, Katuray’s taste is ever-so-slightly bitter, where studies find most bitter natural foods have ENORMOUS health benefits, such as the all-mighty Bitter Melon, a.k.a. in Okinawa as Goya.

So today I’m going to attempt for the very first time to make Katuray Salad, a.k.a. Ensaladang Katuray. Note that I’m not Filipino, nor grew up around a Filipino community, however I’m now surrounded by many Filipino folks I work with in our company, which is very cool. Love them!

To begin, first we need to remove the stamen, which is the reproductive part, or center stalk of the flower that shoots out of its stem, as this part has an overbearingly bitter taste…

Here we have the stamens removed by simply pulling each one out of the stem base, one-by-one…

Here’s the whole batch, with stamens and stems removed…

Next we have to blanch the Katuray in boiling water for about a minute or so, then shock it to stop the cooking process, as well as preserve its color, while blanching also removes as much bitterness as possible. Let’s do that…

You blanch it in boiling-hot water for about a minute or so, check it for softness and tenderness, then immediately transfer the now almost-ready-for-service Katuray to an ice-cold water bath for a shock treatment…

Once the Katuray feels ice cold in the drink, place in a colander and thoroughly drain to dry…

Now we’re ready to get our Ensaladang Katuray groove on, adding a few simple yet essential ingredients. Which would be small sliced tomato wedges, onions (I prefer Red), Bagoong (pronounced “bah-GOONG”, nah, just kidding. It’s pronounced “bah-gah’ong”) and vinegar, in which for the latter, I prefer using Apple Cider Vinegar for its more “woodsy” flavor profile. Apple Cider Vinegar is also an excellent type to use for making Pork Adobo, a tip I learned from Aunty Lynn.

Wait, you said Bagoong (bah-gah’ong) is the dressing for this, ehem, “flower salad”? Well yes, it is. Let’s check out the bottle of this here very INFAMOUS Filipino fermented fish sauce…

Needless to say, Bagoong is neither the most appetizing looking nor SMELLING. For the untrained person, this stuff WREAKS. Imagine taking a can of sardines, opening it up and leaving it on your roof in the hot sun for a week or month or two, then smelling it, and that’s kinda’ what Bagoong smells like. I mean, come on, it’s fermented fish sauce, what do you expect?

That last sentence said, you know what, in TASTE, Bagoong is actually quite delicious! Go figure! But you definitely have to have A TASTE for it, as if you’re of a typical western mentality on the palate, you will SO NOT like Bagoong, to put it gently. Myself, I’m a pretty worldly person, so things like Bagoong are what I entirely endear! In fact, this here bottle of Bagoong is my salads’ newest best friend’s friend! lol

While tasting like a fish that’s been sitting in the sun for way too many days, albeit in a GOOD WAY, Bagoong is also VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY SALTY, SALTY, SALTY. Did I repeat that enough? I mean seriously. Yet looking at the nutritional facts on the label, it states there’s “just” 280mg of sodium per 2 oz. serving? Now that sounds WAY underrated. There’s simply no way in HELL this Bagoong Fermented Fish Sauce has just 280mg of sodium per 2 oz. serving. NO WAY! I’d say more like 3 times the legal limit of someone’s typical sodium intake per day, it’s THAT SALTY. By far the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted besides salt itself that I can recall.

Bagoong = “potent” fermented fish smell and super-salty, fermented fish flavor. Exactly as advertised.

Let’s get “cooking”, where we begin by assembling our Ensaladang Katuray “ingrediments” by adding an equal-amount mixture of Bagoong and Aloha brand Apple Cider Vinegar to the Katuray, tomato wedges and red onion slices…

The quantity is approximately 2 tablespoons Bagoong mixed with about 1-3/4 to 2 tablespoons Aloha brand Apple Cider Vinegar for the dresssing, half a large tomato, cut into small bite-size wedges, sliced red onions (cut how you like) and about 20 trimmed Katuray (give or take). As with all “cooking 101”, taste it before you add it to make sure it’s where you want it to be.

Mix it up…

Boom. Here it is. Ensaladang Katuray…

Plate it up…

And? Winner!

But, ironically, not so much for the Katuray itself, as it’s kinda’ like lettuce, being there mostly for substance and texture, however not so much in flavor. It’s hardly as bitter as I expected it to taste, thanks to having removed the stamens. Naturally, the green base part is the most bitter, if hardly at all, tasting mostly “green”. The blanched Katuray flower pedals were, as expected, a bit rubbery, yet tender enough to chew, sort of like the stalk part of a lettuce or cabbage. And it tastes, as expected, like what you would imagine a non-fragrant flower to taste like. Well, like a flower, at the very least. At the most, like “some kinda’ veggie”, yet overall nondescript.

To me the key to this dish really lies in the tomato and red onions to not only punch out the flavor, but also tame down the pungency of the Bagoong fish sauce.

Ultimately I’ll tell you this. Ensaladang Katuray, made with Katuray flowers, tomatoes and onions in a bagoong and vinegar dressing tastes like a “Lomi Salmon Salad”, sans the salmon. Where the saltiness and “fishy” flavor of the bagoong take place of the salted salmon, in compliments with the acidic fruitiness of the tomato and “kick” from the red onions. Simple as that.

I do know in my first attempt here at making Ensaladang Katuray that I nailed it in flavor profile, as I served it to two Pinay that I work with, and they both approved of it as being authentic and spot-on.

Kickin’ it up even further, Diner C, who is Pinay and a fantastic resource of Filipino food knowledge, and also the person who so kindly brought the Katuray to work to share with all of us, had some extra Garlic Shrimp from Costco, so I tried adding that to my Ensaladang Katuray…

And? EXCELLENT! The shrimp TOTALLY worked with the flavor profile of the Bagoong-marinated Katuray “salad”. It brought on a much-helped meatiness, entirely complimenting it both in flavor and texture. Which has me thinking of adding Opae – which are them dried shrimp – the next time I make Ensaladang Katuray. And believe me, the next time one of my friendly Pinoy coworkers bring Katuray to work to share, I WILL make Ensaladang Katuray again! Good stuff. 3 Ume Musubi.

P.S. While we’re on the subject, here’s some photos I took using my trusty, super-compact, large CCD sensor, bright lens Canon Powershot S95 last week of flowers and cactus around our property, and also at the local hardware store garden center (City Mill)…

That last white flower is Tiare, a.k.a. “Tahitian Gardenia”, which I LOVE the smell of, and use as an “air freshener” in my home when they’re in bloom right in our front yard.

22 thoughts on “Ensaladang Katuray

  • August 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm
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    Pomai,

    Eating unsalted macadamia nuts, pistachio nuts and cooking with olive oil help lower both cholesterol and blood pressure.

    Reply
    • August 11, 2012 at 8:28 am
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      Ken-san,

      With my weight loss alone, I feel SO much better, diet notwithstanding. I don’t have BP counts, but I should, as I have a home device to keep record. I’ll start adding that to my weight journal here on this blog. Makes for interesting reading and archive, no doubt. Surely my doctor would like to see those counts, as he reads my blog. Thanks for the tip!

      Reply
  • August 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm
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    Pomai, I never use yet bagoong fish sauce only Vietnamese one. I also use Ham Ha shrimp paste which smell very strong but taste very good. Where can I find katuray? Fiddlehead fern is one not easy to find too.

    Reply
    • August 11, 2012 at 8:30 am
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      Harm Ha Pork with Tofu and Watercress = WINNAH!!! Can’t eat the pork right now, but when I can, I will DEFINITELY blog that dish!

      Reply
  • August 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm
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    How do you get 1gm of fiber from fermented fish and salt?!?…

    Reply
    • August 11, 2012 at 8:31 am
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      Exactly, right? The nutritional “facts” on that label look WAY OFF. Then again, I wonder how many other food product nutritional labels are that off. THAT would make for an interesting investigative report!

      Reply
  • August 11, 2012 at 12:18 am
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    Wow Pomai, you showed a other side of yourself now. Taking picture of flowers and plants. Some so nice looking make a great posters. Instead of food now flowers also.

    Reply
    • August 11, 2012 at 8:38 am
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      “Snap”, girlfriend. Coming next in photos, Monster Trucks ‘n Motorcycles. LOL!!!

      Reply
  • August 11, 2012 at 2:41 am
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    Not all Filipino from Philippine know of this dish. Many grew up with more Chinese or Spanish culture in them for that reason. I see this dish came from another region of Philippine so certain Filipinos grew up having it.

    Reply
    • August 11, 2012 at 8:43 am
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      One of my coworkers is from Manila, and she NEVER tried Katuray before, until I made some and gave her a sample. Here I am, non-Filipino, making a Filipino dish for a Pinay. Go figure. But she approved with a big thumbs-up!!!

      Reply
    • August 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm
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      I actually HAVE a bottle of cane vinegar from P.I. in my pantry, which I’ve used before for making Adobo, but I didn’t find it remarkable. The Apple Cider Vinegar has a much better flavor profile for Adobo, and also fortunately for this here Insaladang Katuray.

      That said, a “Great Vinegar Shootout” sounds interesting!

      While I’m not ready for that yet, I do have on my back burner a “Great Poi Shootout”, comparing Taro Brand with Hanalei and whatever others out there I can get my poi-coated hands on.

      Reply
      • August 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm
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        I tend to agree on the vinegar. And bottling in the Philippines is not really up to our standards for many foods. As for poi, Makaweli and Hanalei will win, of course. Both 100% Lehua. Remember to allow Hanalei to warm for 10 minutes before consumption. Great to keep in fridge for a couple days.

        Reply
        • August 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm
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          Excellent tips on the poi shootout! When you say to let the Hanalei warm for 10 minutes, do you mean at room temperature, or on the stove on low or medium heat?

          I know it’s very important to let gourmet cheeses come to room temperature before consuming to maximize its flavor, is that “discongeals” the fats in it, making it more soluble.

          Reply
          • August 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm
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            That would be room. BTW I know the principals behind Hanalei, both the growers and the maker. They take extraordinary care to ensure a fine product. The goal was a ready to eat and it is really popular here on Kauai for small families. And it keeps for a couple of days as can be in fridge, top shelf or deli drawer.

  • August 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm
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    Just want to say I did my civic duty and voted today. Now the fun part to watch the evening news broadcasts of the polling results!

    For you folks not in Honolulu, the primary election today is for Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu, with top contenders being (D) Peter Carlisle (former City Prosecutor and incumbent), (D) Kirk Caldwell and (D) Ben Cayetano (former Hawaii Governor). Also US Senator, with top contenders being (R) Linda Lingle (former Hawaii governor and Maui county Mayor), (D) Ed Case and (D) Mazie Hirono. Also US Representative, State Senator and State Representative.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm
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    Hey Pomai,

    Which City Mill did you go to? I’ve been looking for one of the plants posted.

    Mahalo,
    Matsu

    Reply
    • August 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm
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      You have to specify which plant you’re looking for, as half of those photos were taken in our yard. The plants from City Mill were at the Nimitz (Iwilei) location.

      Reply
  • August 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm
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    at first i had no clue what you were talking about until i saw the pictures. katuray must be the tagalog pronunciation b/c ilokano would be kah-TOO-die. my mom eats it in a variety of things, but salad being the most common. the onion tomato combo is good with anything in our house and even with shoyu over kamote tops (sweet potato leaves). my mom also eats it over blanched marungay leaves. as an aside, i’ve always loved tomatoes and onions on the side of my adobo and rice :), sometimes just tomatoes.

    Reply
    • August 17, 2012 at 9:19 am
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      Dina, actually, now that you mention it, it is “ka-too-die”, not “rye”. Sorry, my haole blood was coming out there. The latter would be like saying “Kah-rah-Tee” (Karate). lol

      The only way I know how to eat Marungay is in Tinola (Chicken Papaya Soup). LOVE the stuff!

      Reply
  • August 24, 2012 at 11:32 pm
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    Pomai, you are not wrong about the name of this flower. It is known as katurai, katuray, and katuday. My mom made this but she takes out the green part. In addition to all your ingredients she also puts diced tiny bits of ginger. I think this is the Ilocano way. You might want to try grilled bitter melon or grilled eggplant (take out skin) with the same mixture you used with this salad.

    Reply
  • June 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm
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    Picked some up at local Maui outdoor market yesterday and was told by ilocano friends it’s name, but took the internet to find out how to use and good recipes. Love the extra flower pics. What is 7th one down . . round green leaves? Mahalo nui for sharing!

    Reply

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