Describing this salad in words transforms flavors and texture into language; thus, if you’re not familiar with salad flavor re-layering terms, you can quickly review them here, as this is the foundation for the technique described here.
Multiple ingredients in a salad can produce structural noise and clutter that will disrupt the salad’s rhythm, resulting in a confusing disharmony. Therefore, it is our responsibility to understand and anticipate the tones of the salad, clearly conveying their combined resonance, based not only on the ingredients themselves but also on their taste, texture, and cutting style within this rhythm.
In this salad, which has almost twenty ingredients, each ingredient is prepared, cut, and gauged precisely: this precision is designed to enhance, complement or contrast the taste, texture and look of the salad – only then can these ingredients, together, present a fully rounded perception of a unified, visually pleasing and delicious dish.
Look for a fruit that is not overly sour, ripe, too dry, or excessively juicy. Using your hands, separate the fruit pulp into small, equal-sized pieces. It is important not to bruise the juice-filled sacs but separate them into small segments without altering the pomelo’s texture. Since pomelo is the salad’s main ingredient, an appropriate level of uniformity in their size sets the basic rhythm for the salad. The pomelo pieces should be small enough to fit onto a spoon or fork with the salad’s other ingredients while sustaining the citrusy playfulness of the pomelo juice released with each bite. The importance of uniformity and the appropriate size cannot be overemphasized, so don’t rush the process of creating a neat and graceful result.
The pomelo contributes to the salad’s sour-sweet elements with a citrusy and a distant etheric bitterness. We further enhance each property through re-layering polygons.
1. The pomelo citrusy element is re-layered with lemongrass and bitter orange peels; the dressing is seasoned sour with lime juice and infused with the citrusy aroma of lemongrass.
2. The pomelo’s bitterness is celebrated with bitter orange peels, and the astringent-bitterness of Asian pennywort leaves and ginger.
3. The pomelo’s fruity sourness is paired with green mango and the sharp lemony sourness of the dressing.
4. Last, the pomelo’s sweetness is enveloped with various degrees of sweetness, from the coconut cream and palm sugar of the dressing through to the inherent sweetness of shrimp, fresh shallots and roasted coconut, and the caramelization of the roasted shallots and grilled fresh bird’s eye chilies pounded into the dressing.
Furthermore, it is apparent that this salad also displays nutty, fatty, and smoke flavor polygons in addition to the citrusy-sour polygons described above.
1. The smoke element is established in the dressing via roasted shallots and grilled fresh chilies as the dressing’s flavor base; and through the salad ingredients that showcase the smoke elements: roasted coconut, roasted dried chilies, and fried cashew nuts.
2. The nutty element is introduced from the honey-like nuttiness of palm sugar, as well as the roasted coconut and cashew nuts.
3. The fatty components consist of coconut cream, shrimp, roasted coconut, and fried cashew nuts.
One last polygon is the green herbaceous element that connects the roasted green chilies in the dressing, the pennyworth leaves, and the coriander leaves.
The shrimp are poached whole and unpeeled in salted water, producing shrimp meat that tastes salty on the outside while remaining sweet at its core. A tablespoon of salt per cup of water is used to produce a seawater-salty brine, a reflection of the shrimp’s natural habitat.
Slow-motioning flavor ingredients, such as young ginger and pennyworth leaves, are deployed to ensure that this nuanced sweetness-saltiness is discerned.
Texturally, every bite consists of juice-bursting pomelo vesicles combined with crunchy roasted coconut and fried cashew nuts. Therefore, the cashew nuts are flaked into uniform slices that retain the nut crunch and the coconut is sliced into equal-sized matchstick-thin strips. Both are then uniformly roasted to impart a relaxed ambiance and a consistent textural distribution across the salad.
Lemongrass is first infused into the coconut cream by adding a generous amount of thinly sliced lemongrass to the coconut cream and massaging it together to release its citrusy aroma. Then, using a mortar and pestle, pound together the roasted shallots and charred green bird’s eye chilies before mixing them with the lemongrass-infused coconut and the rest of the dressing’s ingredients.
The use of coconut cream and palm sugar as the sweet elements is designed to soften the sharp edges of the fruit’s sourness while retaining sufficient transparency to allow its freshness to pass through.
Essential Cooking Skills:
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To prepare the salted shrimp
- 5 pieces shrimp (กุ้ง) heads and shell on, devein the shrimp using a skewer/
- 1 stalk lemongrass (ตะไคร้)
- 3 cups water (น้ำเปล่า)
- 3 tablespoons sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
For the salad
- 1 cup pomelo (ส้มโอ) Separated into small equal-sized pieces.
- 2 tablespoons young ginger (ขิงอ่อน) sliced into very thin juliennes.
- 1/3 cup green mango (มะม่วงเปรี้ยว) sliced into very thin juliennes.
- 2 tablespoons shallots (หอมแดง) thinly sliced.
- 1 tablespoon Asian pennywort (centella asiatica)(ใบบัวบก) Rolled and sliced into thin strips.
- 1/2 tablespoon bitter orange peel (som.saa)(ผิวนส้มซ่า) thinly sliced.
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves (ใบผักชี) soaked in water to freshen up.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons roasted coconut (มะพร้าวคั่ว)
- 1/2 tablespoon dried Thai bird’s eye chili (phrik kee noo) (พริกขี้หนููแห้ง) roasted and thinly sliced.
To fry the cashew nuts
- 2 tablespoons raw cashew nuts (เม็ดมะม่วงหิมพานต์) flaked into thin slices after frying.
- neutral tasting cooking oil (น้ำมันพืช) for frying.
- 1/2 cup coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
- 2 tablespoons lemongrass (ตะไคร้) thinly sliced.
- 3 pieces shallots (หอมแดง) char roasted.
- 2 pieces fresh green Thai bird’s eye chili (phrik kee noo) (พริกขี้หนูเขียว) char-grilled to 40% char.
- 1 part fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 1 part lime juice (น้ำมะนาว)
- 1/2 part palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
Prepare the salted shrimp.
- Bruise a lemongrass stalk to allow it to release its aroma.
- Prepare the brine: place into a pot the bruised lemongrass, salt, and water (in a ratio of 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water).
- Use a skewer to devein the shrimp; stick the skewer into the shrimp sideways under the vein and lift it upward to pull out the vein.
- Bring the brine to a boil. Add the shrimp, unpeeled and head-on, and immediately turn off the heat.
- Leave the shrimp to rest in the brine until it has cooled to room temperature.
- Peel and cut the shrimp into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
Prepare the roasted and fried ingredients.
- Prepare the roasted coconut. Set aside.
- Roast the dried chilis until half charred. Then slice them into thin pieces. Set aside and reserve some for the garnish.
- Starting from a cold oil and on low heat, fry the raw cashew nuts until fully cooked and lightly golden.
- Let cool and, using a knife, flake the cashew nuts into thin equal-sized slices.
Prepare the salad seasoning.
- Char-grill the fresh green bird's eye chilies.
- Char-grill the shallots.
- In a mortar and pastel, pound grilled green bird's eye chilies and roasted shallots to a fine paste.
- Into a mixing bowl, pour the coconut cream over thinly sliced lemongrass.
- Using your hand, massage the lemongrass into the coconut cream to infuse its citrusy aroma. Continue until you can smell the lemongrass aroma.
- Transfer the chili-shallot paste to the coconut cream.
- Add the rest of the dressing ingredients, the lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar, at the ratios indicated. Mix well.
Prepare the salad ingredients.
- Arrange all the ingredients side-by-side in a mixing bowl, so you can visually gauge their ratios.
- Separate the pomelo into small equal-sized pieces. Set aside.
- Peel the green mango and cut into thin julienne strips. Set aside.
- Slice the young ginger into very thin julienne strips. Set aside and reserve some for the garnish.
- Peel and slice the shallots lengthwise into thin slices. Set aside.
- Roll and slice the Asian pennywort leaves into thin strips. Set aside.
- Slice the bitter orange peel into thin slices. Set aside and reserve some for the garnish.
- Pick coriander leaves and soak in water to freshen up. Set aside and reserve some for the garnish.
Combine the salad
- Before serving, toss all the ingredients together, add the salad dressing and toss again.
- Place the salad on a serving plate. Let the ingredients fall and arrange organically – don’t force them but, rather, gently guide them into a tall cone-like shape. Garnish with young ginger, bitter orange zest, roasted dried chilies, and coriander leaves. Serve.