In the enticing world of refreshing and flavorful summer salads, my favorite creations have been inspired by the seductive, sweet and salty flavors of Thailand.
In the Thai language, according to Wikipedia, Thai Salad may be referred to as “Yam”, often pronounced, “Yum”. Yummy-yum-yum: An eloquent descriptor summing up the flavors of a well-executed Thai salad.
The ingredients for an authentic Thai salad are inextricably linked to the exotic culture and colorful Thai landscape. Through the northern hill tribe country to the pristine beaches and caves of the southern islands, days traveling through the tapestry of Thailand may often culminate with a delicious Thai salad for dinner.
I spent a few weeks exploring the country; much of it on a bicycle accompanied by a Buddhist monk, who guided me through the towns and small villages of northern Thailand. The food markets were, of course, the highlight.
The salad bars in Chaing Mai’s Night Market inspired the following recipe. Unlike most western salads, these salads aren’t heavy with oils, fats and fillers. In fact, I didn’t use any oil in the following recipe. Relishing the balanced, vibrant flavors in a Thai salad leaves me deliciously satisfied, yet not weighted down.
Thai salads are also different from Western salads because they’re generally not based on a mound of greens, rather one central character with a supporting cast; in this case, the beef with the accompanying side salads and rice. When composing a Thai salad, I generally arrange different salads around this primary ingredient.
Any type of “composed salad” generally incorporates the cook’s artistic sensibilities and is attractively arranged, rather than tossed, on the final plate. You, the “composer”, envision the color and texture of your edible “painting”, orchestrating the melodic balance of flavor.
Don’t let the ingredient lists put you off, the marinade and salad dressing use similar items which may be found in the Asian section of many traditional grocery stores. Tsai Grocery on Oak Valley off Ann Arbor-Saline Road, has several varieties of fish sauce, curry paste and spices as well as a small refrigerated section generally stocking lemongrass and Thai basil. If you can’t find Thai basil, add additional cilantro and mint to the salad.
Sirloin tip may be substituted for the flank steak, if desired. For the rice, I choose the Alter Eco Fair Trade Thailand Phakao Cooperative, available at many local groceries, including Whole Foods and The People’s Coop, but any good Asian rice may be substituted. One cup of dry rice yields three cups of cooked rice, the perfect amount of rice to serve with this salad.
Disclaimer: This is not a recipe you can whip up in 30 minutes. This is a Polish Grandmother Recipe. And anyone who is a Polish Grandmother, or anyone who has a Polish Grandmother, or anyone (like me) who lives next door to a Polish Grandmother, knows that Polish Grandmother Recipes can’t be completed in less than thirty minutes. But … Full recipe post »
On Sunday’s journey back from Utah (an impromptu trip utilizing a free AMEX companion plane ticket), while poring over photographs taken hiking Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, I lamented that I forget to take my wide-angle lens. Still. I could never capture Ansel Adam‘s American West no matter how many strings of cameras I roped around … Full recipe post »
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