While my culinary explorations have taken me all over Europe, the Middle East, India and parts of Africa, I’ve never really experimented with food from Asia. And yes, I realise that this is an enormous variety of cuisines to ignore, but when one dislikes pork, seafood, and peanuts, is not particularly fond of rice or soy, is a total wuss when it comes to spicy food, and grew up eating Chinese food on a regular basis and absolutely hating it (we had a local Chinese place that my parents liked a lot and I really, really didn’t), one tends to gravitate to other cuisines.
But my brother invited us around for dinner the other day, and said he was making Massaman beef curry and could I bring a salad and I thought, oh dear, I’m going to have to figure out something Thai, aren’t I? Fortunately, I recently acquired a copy of the excellent book, Salt, Fat Acid, Heat, of which more at some later date, and this comes with all sorts of fascinating flavour wheels that provide ideas about which herbs and spices go with which cuisines. So I took a couple of salad recipes, crossed them with a lime, ginger and chilli-based dressing, and added a random mango at the last minute because it felt like a good fit.
The result was very fresh and tasty and herbal and delicious. I have no idea if it was convincingly Thai (probably not, since I was determined to avoid both fish sauce and peanuts), but it was very tasty, and it went well with the curry, which was the main point.
Anyway. If you regularly cook Thai food, you definitely don’t need this recipe, because you certainly have something better in your repertoire, but I don’t, so I want to write down what I did, just in case Thai cuisine does eventually become part of my culinary vocabulary…
Editing this to add: I wrote this post before Coronavirus and people being racist twits and boycotting Chinese restaurants was a thing. I really do wish I liked Chinese food more – I’d like to support the #IWillEatWithYou campaign, because racism sucks even if my tastebuds are uncooperative. So, please, help me expand my culinary horizons and tell me your suggestions for awesome Chinese restaurants in Melbourne (preferably ones with a good vegetarian/vegan selection, since I’m about to go veggo for Lent). I’ll start – I had a fantastic vegan Szechuan feast at Shu restaurant a few years back, which was delicious if you like your Chinese food spicy, and I reviewed it here.
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For the dressing
2 limes (juice only)
5 tbsp canola oil or other neutral oil
1 clove garlic, crushed (or 1/3 tsp garlic from a tube)
3 cm piece of ginger, grated (or 1-2 tsp ginger from a tube)
1/2 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
For the Salad
2 large Lebanese cucumbers
2 medium carrots
3 large spring onions
1 bunch of coriander
1/2 bunch of mint
crushed peanuts if you absolutely insist, but they are disgusting.
Now what will you do with it?
Whisk together the dressing ingredients. This is probably going to give you enough dressing for two salads, but you can keep the other half for later.
Peel your cucumber in stripes, and slice very thinly. Peel and thinly slice your carrots.
Slice the spring onions diagonally, going part way up the green.
Slice the cheeks off the mango, and dice.
Chop the mint leaves, and the coriander leaves and stems.
Mix everything together in a bowl. Add peanuts if you are the kind of monster who would do that to an innocent salad. (But it will be on your conscience, and I hope you are prepared to live with that.) Serve!
Honestly, your guess will be as good as mine. Probably better. I have no clue what I’m doing. But the recipe as it stands is vegan, gluten-free and nut-free (unless you committed acts of peanutry, in which case, all I can say is that I am sorry for the things in your life that have brought you to this point), and probably fairly low-GI, so yay!