I'm in mega post-vacation withdrawal. My tan has faded and the reality of a full work week has dawned. As part of the denial phase, in which I refuse to acknowledge that I am not on a Thai beach anymore, I cook.
Today I'm paying tribute to one of my favorite under-appreciated Thai foods - the salad. Fabulously named produce is everywhere in Thailand, tumbling from makeshift roadside stands, begging to be dressed with lime juice, fish sauce and fresh herbs. Dragonfruit. Mangosteen. Rambutan. And, the mighty pomelo.
The pomelo is a huge, thick-skinned cousin of the grapefruit. In fact, you can sub in pink grapefruit and get a really close approximation of the dish. I've outlined the pomelo prep steps in pretty deep detail, since most of us don't often grapple with a grapefruit the size of a baby's head.
The pomelo salad has a million iterations, but this recipe is loosely based on the one at Kin Khao, an awesome San Francisco Thai restaurant that recently earned its place at #6 on GQ's list of best new restaurants in the US. (Congrats!) So if there's any pomelo salad recipe to bother with, this one is worth it.
Thai Pomelo Salad with Mint and Fried Shallot
Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 5 min Total Time: 25 min
3 Tbs fish sauce
3 Tbs lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
3 shallots, chopped and divided
2 pomelos or 3 large pink grapefruits
1/2 cup grapeseed or other high-heat oil
1 English cucumber, peeled, deseeded and sliced into thin half moons
4 Tbs peanuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup mint leaves, chopped or torn roughly
2 Thai chiles, minced. Use with caution if you don't like a lot of spice
Dressing: Combine fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic and 1 Tbs shallots. Stir and set aside.
Salad: Supreme the pomelo or grapefruit. Supreming is when you separate the inner fleshy segments from the tough membranes. Yes, this is a pain in the ass. Cut the peel from the pomelo first. The peel is really thick - you'll be surprised at how much you will need to cut away. Cut off the top and bottom, then slice down the sides. Using a paring knife, cut away ALL the white pith. This makes the next part much easier. Segment the fruit using a paring knife or your fingers, separating the membrane from the flesh, segment by segment. You may end up starting with the knife, then switch to your hands to get at the smaller pieces.
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot, fry remaining shallot til golden brown, about 4 minutes, taking care not not to burn the shallot. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve the oil for another use - it tastes great in salad dressings.
To serve, pour off any accumulated juice from the fruit. Toss fruit through with cucumbers, peanuts, mint and chiles. Pour over the dressing and toss to coat. Top with fried shallot.