This uncommon flower salad is originated from the mountainous northwestern region of Vietnam. Cobblers pegs (Bidens pilosa), also known as black-jack, beggarticks, farmer’s friends and Spanish needle, is a wild weed in the daisy family. It’s no ta daily vegetable due to the slightly bitter taste, but may be consumed occasionally to refresh your food palate. This wild flower is known as hoa xuyến chi in Vietnamese, and can be found anywhere, such as in fields, along highways, or in bushes with other weeds.
In Vietnam, the burr marigold can be used in some stir-fry dishes, but a burr marigold salad dish is quite unique. In norwestern Vietnam, it is paired with smoked water buffalo jerky. The so-called smoked water buffalo jerky (Vietnamese: thịt trâu gác bếp) is the meat of water buffalo marinated with spices, especially with Vietnamese prickly ash pepper, and get smoked traditionally over rustic kitchen stove. The texture is dry and chewy just like beef jerky, so beef jerky is a close substitution for smoked buffalo.
Cobblers pegs flowers and leaves must be picked when they are young. The processing of these raw materials require some extra time to dispel the pungent smell and the bitter taste. Flowers and leaves must be blanched twice and then squeezed carefully to get rid of the oil. After each blanching, they need to soaked in cold water with ice to retain the color and crispiness.
Blanch the black-jack flowers and leaves quickly in a pot of hot water and take an ice bath then wring dry. Repeat the process again to make sure the bitterness of the flowers and leaves is reduced.
Slice the carrot into jullienne or thin strips. Mix carrots strips with 1 - 1½ tablespoons of sugar, leave for 15-20 minutes, then gently squeeze, and discard the water. This will ensure the carrot will be very crispy.
In a small bowl, add 50 ml of fish sauce, 30 g (1 oz) of sugar, 50 ml of lemon juice, stir thoroughly until the sugar dissolves. Add minced chili and garlic, stir well. Season again to suit your taste.
In a salad bowl, add blanched cobblers pegs flowers and leaves, shredded smoked buffalo or beef jerky, chopped coriander, and pour the salad sauce into the bowl. Mix well and serve. Add crushed peanuts, sesame seeds and some herb leaves to garnish.
Smoked buffalo or beef jerky may be rather dry, so if you want it soft, try steaming it quickly.