It is pomelo season here in Thailand and there is nothing more arrestingly beautiful than coming upon a pomelo tree fully laden with fruit that look like giant yellow Christmas balls shimmering n the sun. It is an astonishing sight to behold!
Pomelo (citus maxima) is native to South East Asia but found in the tropics around the world. It looks like a large grapefruit that is mildly sweet rather than bitter and the main ingredient for a Thai pomelo salad with shallots, garlic, chilies, shrimp, coriander, toasted coconut, and peanuts tossed with a pungent sweet sour and spicy coconut milk dressing. Sound enticing? Believe me, it is. To me, this is Thai food at its very best. I prefer the more traditional flavor of dried shrimp for the recipe, but feel free to use freshly poached shrimp if you prefer.
Serve as a main course for lunch or as a starter for an evening meal. This is a spectacular salad that tames the summer heat in the most unexpected ways. Pomelos can be found in Asian markets, but if not available you can substitute grapefruit in the recipe that follows.
Pomelo salad must be served absolutely fresh so there are components that should be prepared ahead and on standby for assembling the salad.
Thai Pomelo Salad serves 4
- 1 cup coconut cream (thick coconut milk)
- 4 teaspoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 4 teaspoons roasted red chile paste (Note: see recipe below)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
Pour the coconut cream into a non-reactive sauce pan. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce, and red chile paste to the pan and set over low heat. Stir as the contents heat up to dissolve the palm sugar and chile paste. Once the contents of the pan come to a to a slow simmer, add the lime juice and kaffir lime leaves. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
Note: roasted red chile paste. Prepared red chile pastes can be found in Asian markets. If they are not available you can easily make your own.
Roasted Red Chile Paste:
- 2 tablespoons cold pressed peanut or coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons finely grated garlic
- 3 tablespoons finely grated shallots
- 3 tablespoons finely minced seeded red chilies
- 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
- 2 teaspoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
Heat the oil in a skillet set over medium low flame. When the oil is hot add the garlic, shallots, and red chilies and fry until very soft without browning too much.
Make a well in the center of the pan and add the shrimp paste and palm sugar, pressing them against the bottom of the skillet until they melt together. Add the fish sauce and stir everything together and continue to fry until the mixture is reduced and thickened into a paste.
Transfer to a storage container and when cool refrigerate.
- 1 pomelo, peeled, sectioned, membrane removed from each section, and refrigerated
- 2 tablespoons cold pressed peanut or palm oil
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
- ¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
- ¼ cup toasted shredded coconut
- ¼ cup dried shrimp, soaked in hot water (or 12 poached plump shrimp, deveined)
- 2 red bird’s eye chilies, seeded and finely minced
- ¼ cup crushed roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
Break up the prepared pomelo sections into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet and fry the garlic until soft and only slightly colored. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and add the remaining tablespoon of oil and fry the shallots until soft and only lightly colored. Transfer to the plate with the garlic and set aside.
Wipe out the skillet once again with a paper towel and add the shredded coconut. Set the pan over medium low heat and lightly toast the coconut, stirring or tossing continuously. Remove the coconut from the pan promptly and set aside in a small bowl.
Drain the dried shrimp and pat dry. Coarsely chop and add to the bowl with the pomelo sections, or add poached shrimp if using. Add the fried garlic, shallots, minced chilies, two thirds of the toasted coconut, two thirds of the peanuts, and most of the coriander leaves, reserving enough leaves for garnishing.
Toss the ingredients until well combined and then add 3 to 5 tablespoons of the dressing and toss until combined.
Transfer the salad to individual serving bowls and drizzle a little more dressing over each serving. Sprinkle a little coconut and peanuts over each serving and garnish with remaining coriander leaves and serve promptly!