Many people associate Thai food with curries - Green, Red, Yellow, they're all delicious and increasingly popular in the UK. But I think my favourite style of Thai meal is the salad. Don't go shaking your head, thinking I'm talking about some limp lettuce leaves here, Thai salads are strong-flavoured, filling and satisfyingly savoury, despite being made with fruit.
One of the 'star' meals of the trip was this incredible Pomelo salad that I had one evening. Already I am struggling to remember what was in it (I really should have written it down straight away, as I did ask the waiter about it), but it included Pomelo of course (the huge citrus fruit, tastes a little like grapefruit but is less juicy), toasted coconut and fried onions. It was topped with some shrimp which were lovely, but the dish wouldn't have suffered without them.
Another exciting salad we ate was this one - Banana Blossom salad!
I've seen banana flowers for sale in supermarkets here in Brunei, but wouldn't have had a clue what to do with one, so I was keen to try this salad. OK, I still don't know what I'd do with a banana flower, but this was really tasty - crispy, sweet, savoury, spicy, topped with fried dried chillies... fantastic. A project for another time. I'll do some research.
Perhaps the most well-known of the little-known Thai Salads is Som Tam - Green Papaya Salad. This is made with unripe, or green, papaya along with pieces of raw green bean and cherry tomatoes. I had this dish 3 times during our holiday... yes, it's delicious but it also had the benefit of making me feel like I was eating healthily to counteract the unhealthy amount of Beer Chang that we were drinking!
The dressing is a powerful mix of raw garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar, and chopped fresh chillies are also added. The dish is topped with a handful of toasted peanuts (or these can be stirred through).
Som Tam - Thai Papaya Salad
Make the dressing first - in a bowl mix together 2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp palm sugar, 4 cloves of garlic (crushed) and 1 red birdseye chili (finely chopped, but not deseeded).
Peel and shred one medium green papaya (although I have used a much riper, but still firm one before now to no ill effect).
Chop a handful of green beans (we use long beans here, but French beans will be fine) and about 8 cherry tomatoes (or 2 medium tomatoes). Add the beans and tomatoes to the papaya.
Pour the dressing over and stir to coat all the fruit and veg. Sprinkle over a handful of toasted, roughly chopped peanuts. Or even easier, just use some salted peanuts.
This can be served with rice, but I like it on its own as I don't feel that it needs anything alongside (other than one of those beers...!)
I see from this picture that I also added slivered onion and Thai Basil leaves when I made this in November. Both were a positive addition. As you can see, the papaya I used was already orange, but it was firm enough not to be too sweet and held it's shape when shredded.