Going Wild

The word ‘ulam’ refers to a variety of fresh and raw herbs and vegetables. A popular favourite is wild cosmos leaves which make these recipes extra delicious.

Wild cosmos leaves, which is also locally known as daun ulam raja was originally from Latin America but today, it is found growing in the wild jungles of Malaysia. This leaf is a staple ingredient in many traditional dishes, especially in Malay, Peranakan, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.

Here are two tasty traditional recipes that feature wild cosmos leaves. The first is a Malay traditional dish, known as Nasi Ulam (Ulam rice) while the second recipe is for traditional salad rolls that are very popular in Vietnam.

Nasi Ulam

Nasi Ulam


2 cups                  Brown rice, chilled

4 tbsp                   Dried shrimp

2                           Mackerel fish

1/3 cup                 Shredded coconut, toasted

1/3 cup                 Mint leaves, thinly sliced

1/3 cup                 Thai basil leaves, thinly sliced

1/3 cup                 Polygonum leaves (daun kesom), thinly sliced

5                           Raw long beans, chopped

3                           Shallots, sliced thinly

1                           Lemongrass stalk (the white part), thinly sliced

2                            Pandan leaves

1 tbsp                    Sugar

A handful of wild cosmos leaves, torn into small pieces


Black pepper

White pepper


  1. Soak dried shrimp in a bowl of water until soft.
  2. Then, pound dried shrimp with a pestle and mortar. Alternatively, use a food processor.
  3. Heat a wok and dry fry pounded shrimp until aromatic. No oil needed.
  4. Season mackerel with salt and pepper.
  5. Wrap one pandan leaf around each fish. Then wrap each fish in a tin foil and steam until cooked. Leave in the steamer until ready to eat.
  6. In a big bowl, combine rice, herbs, long beans, shredded coconut and dried shrimp.
  7. Add sugar, a pinch of salt, black and white pepper and mix well.
  8. Serve immediately with steamed mackerel.

Tip: Swap brown rice with quinoa for a healthier meal

Vietnamese salad rolls

Vietnamese Salad Rolls


5                              Vietnamese rice wrappers

5                              Large prawns, cooked

1                              Carrot, julienned

1                              Cucumber, julienned

100g                        Vermicelli noodles, cooked

1                              Large lettuce leaf

1 bunch Thai basil leaves

Handful of mint leaves

Handful of wild cosmos leaves


  1. Slice prawns in half and set aside.
  2. Pour warm drinking water into a bowl and place a rice wrapper on a large plate.
  3. Dip the lettuce into the bowl and water and wet the rice wrapper, evenly.
  4. Assemble the salad roll by adding a handful of all ingredients on the rice wrapper.
  5. Once done, gently fold over one side of the wrapper and tuck it in, under the ingredients.
  6. Next, fold the sides and continue rolling until sealed. Follow the same steps for each salad roll until you run out of ingredients.
  7. Serve immediately for maximum freshness.

* Cook’s note: Vietnamese salad rolls can be served on their own or with dipping sauces such as fish sauce and sliced chili or sambal belacan.

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