I would like to share with you a salad recipe that features my favourite plant-to-eat, the tropical herb “Gotu Kola, or by its’ botanical name, Centella Asiatica.
What a smart plant, and rightly so too, for it caught the attention of ancient sages before our time. It is rumoured, that some monk in China used it daily and lived way beyond a hundred years! No wonder the Chinese call it the herb of Longevity. In India it is known as “ Brahmi “ the great brain tonic and used in traditional medicine for over 3,000 years. I am not sure if all these facts were ‘evidenced based’ practice. But let us live smartly and see how Gotu Kola can enrich our lives.
Gotu Kola is one of many medicinal plants that are our natural pharmacy. Throughout the history of mankind, plants have been the panacea for ills. Hippocrates (a Greek physician who is considered the father of Western Medicine) coined this famous saying, “Let your medicine be your food and let your food be your medicine”
Taking Hippocrates’s cue, I am going to show you how to take your medicine and enjoy it as delicious food.
Gotu Kola is an herbaceous plant, which means it is soft stemmed. Also it is a creeper with round coin shape leaves that grow in whorls at points on the creeping stem along with bunches of aerial roots. In South East Asian cuisine, the whole plant, roots and all in salads and is eaten raw. The plant can also be made into refreshing drink to quench thirst. I have used it together with tamarind and lime juice with lots of ice cubes.
Here are some of the outstanding health benefits of the plant and the salad you are about to eat:
Gotu Kola is very alkaline, which means it will help to counter acidosis of the blood therefore improving the quality of the blood which in turn, promotes good health. It is considered a brain food, meaning it increases the circulation of blood in the brain, improving cognitive abilities and enhances memory. The positive attributes for improving health is plentiful.
Nazli’s Gotu Kola Salad
1 kg gotu kola
1 large carrot
1 medium red pepper
3 red chillies
200 g fresh desiccated coconut
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 5 limes
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
Soak herb in a bowl of salted water. Add ¼ tsp turmeric powder. Turmeric is an antiseptic and is effective in removing any parasite, while the salt removes dirt and pesticides adhering to leaves and roots. Leave for 10 minutes soaking and wash separately in clean water.
Discard wilted leaves and pick the leaves and stalks only. Remove the roots.
Take a bunch of the herb in your hand and slice thinly.
Slice the shallots, peppers, carrots and chillies.
Combine all ingredients, add the desiccated coconut, the dressing and toss.
In Singapore, fresh gout kola is available at Tekka Market in Serangoon Road, or the Geylang Serai market in Changi Road. The market vendors know the herb by its Malay name, “daun pengaga”.
In 1989, a month after giving birth to my son, Sean, I felt really bloated and uneasy with my gut which from all accounts was a ‘slushy’ water bag! I was out of shape and unhappy. Even the presence of a sweet adorable baby could not cheer me up. Rosa, our Sri Lankan help then, noticed what it was and whipped up her mother’s medicinal recipe, a simple salad with lots of shallots, lime and shredded gotu kola leaves ( apparently, all the women in her village used this cure for regaining one’s sanity after baby’s delivery!) I was grateful. She made the salad every day for the next week.
The first taste was bitter, but then, the combination of crunchy onion, sweet nutty coconut, sour limes and bitter leaves, in combination uplifted my senses and refreshed me. It was not difficult to eat the salad every day after that first bite. In short time, I lost the excess fluids, and felt light and rejuvenated.
Definitely more cheerful for baby Sean.