A couple of summers back, we spent a glamourous weekend celebrating a friend’s birthday at a farm-house in the Catskills. Everyone in this particular circle of friends happens to cook amazing food. There was fresh-baked bread, Tomato Pie, chickpea and butternut squash salad with tahini dressing, fava bean salad, smoked salmon hash with fresh herbs and this really delicious melon salad with pungent Thai seasonings. The fellow who made the Thai melon salad gave all of the guests the recipe, which was from his Thai grandmother. It was a genius salad. It had the same flavour profile as a Thai green mango salad (yum) but it was much, much prettier. Here is a picture!
I have been eyeing the recipe for about a month and thinking about just how much I love, love, love fishy, sweet, spicy, tangy sauces. I was still working my way through the last of the gigantic cabbage that I bought a while back (wow cabbages are big!) so I made ANOTHER cabbage and citrus slaw with the lime dressing, peanuts and dried shrimp from the melon salad. It was good, but without the melon it wanted to be sweeter and more colorful (enter mango, red onion and red pepper). I found myself wishing that it used mint instead of cilantro. I got rid of the garlic and and added some oil and vinegar to the dressing.
So, I have made a few versions of this and I finally have something that I am happy with. It is pretty intense. If you do not love, love, love fishy, sweet, spicy, tangy sauces, you may want to decrease the amount of chili paste and fish sauce or perhaps skip the dried shrimp. I love dried shrimp because they remind me of the dried cuttlefish that we ate like potato chips as kids in Hawaii, but I do realize that not everyone has charming childhood memories attached to dried seafood. The salad would be just fine without them. If you are curious about dried shrimp you can find them in Chinatown. I recommend buying them in the sealed plastic bags rather than from the big open bins on the sidewalk.
CABBAGE SLAW WITH MANGO, PEANUTS, MINT AND PUNGENT DRESSING
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mild oil
- 1 teaspoon chili paste (or less to taste)
- 3 tablespoons palm sugar or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 Tablespoons kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced (or 1 teaspoon grated lime zest)
- 1/2 mango cubed or julienned (green or ripe)
- 2 cups Nappa cabbage thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper, julienned (a carrot would work too)
- 1/2 of a small red onion, thinly sliced and rinsed with cold water
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup dried shrimp (optional)
- 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
- Combine the vinegar,oil, chili paste, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and lime leaves and set aside.
- Toss or layer the mango, cabbage, red pepper and onion. Sprinkle the top with the mint, shrimp and peanuts.
- Whisk the dressing a few times to be sure that the sugar has melted before pouring it over the salad (there may be a little more dressing than you need.)