Sunday, February 17, 2008

Spicy Shrimp and Pomelo Salad

Could it be? Is Spring coming early this year? Today it was just above 60 F and I swear people were walking around in shorts. I spent the day working in my garden. The snow peas are planted. The cilantro is planted. I laid down landscaping tarp to control them pesky weeds. Here in Portland, they grow like nobody’s business and no matter how much elbow grease I put into it, after about a week of warm weather, my garden is overrun. I also started my indoor seeds. This year I’m growing my own Thai sweet basil and holy basil. I sure hope my kaffir lime tree comes back to life. I left it insulated outside because I didn’t have any place to put it inside. I guess I’ll know in a couple of months. I do know that my lemongrass is dead (sorry mom). They didn't make it despite the insulation.

While I was toiling away in my yard, I was daydreaming about the coming summer. I’m so looking forward to grilling and eating al fresco, my tomato harvest, and leaving my back door open to allow a gentle breeze to cool my house. And just because I'm tired of heavy winter food, I made a refreshing shrimp and pomelo salad for dinner today. I found the recipe in a Thai cookbook I got from Costco called The Food of Thailand (check out the thumbnail in the right sidebar). I bought it for the pictures, but wasn’t expecting too much from the recipes. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I use it often for guidelines and inspiration.

You'll notice I listed a few things as optional because I didn't add them for one reason or another, but I still think the result was quite tasty. The sweet acidity of the pomelo goes so well with the spiciness of the dressing. And it takes no time to throw it all together. If you're a fan of Thai flavors, I think you'll enjoy this one.

Pomelo is the godfather of citrus fruits (as far as size goes). It's got a thick skin that's a bitch to peel, so I always cut it with a sharp knife. The taste is more mellow than a grapefruit. By that, I mean it's sweeter and less acidic. The difference between the two remind me of the difference between a lime and a regular lemon. If you like grapefruit, I'm positive you'll like pomelo. And if you're not a fan of grapefruit, give pomelo a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Pomelo and Shrimp Salad with Spicy Herb Dressing
  • 2/3 to ¾ pounds medium shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 1 pomelo
  • ¼ large sweet onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • ½ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbs naam prik phao
  • 1 tbs fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Thai chilies split lengthwise, to taste (optional)
  • 3 tbs unsweetened (!!) shredded coconut, toasted (optional)
  • 1 tbs crispy fried shallots or onions (optional)
Set a medium pot of water on for the shrimp. When it comes to a rapid boil, add the shrimp and allow them to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes (adjust the heat if necessary to keep it at a simmer). Resist the urge to stir the shrimp. Just let them poach away gently. When they’re done, drain them and dunk them in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain them again and put them in the fridge until needed.

It’s easiest to peel the pomelo using a sharp knife. Try to remove as much of the pith as possible, since it can be quite bitter. Cut the segments free and reserve them in a bowl.

In another small bowl, combine the fish sauce, naam prik phao, lime juice and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. You want a uniform mixture. Adjust the taste by adding more fish sauce, lime juice or sugar.

To assemble the salad, combine the onion, chili, mint, cilantro and toasted coconut in a large mixing bowl. Add the shrimp and pomelo (but not the accumulated juices). Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the dressing on top and stir gently. Taste and add more dressing if you like. Lastly, top with the fried onions, if using. Serve immediately, alone or with lettuce or cabbage leaves for wrapping.


Manggy said...

I'm not a big fan of pomelo (the bitterness is always a little off to me), but I can get over that hump anytime if there are prawns that look as good as those in the mix :)

dp said...

Manggy, I've noticed that leaving any part of the skin on the fruit will give a bitter flavor. But I think the fruit itself has a wonderful flavor. The juice also makes a wonderful margarita or mojito :-)

tigerfish said...

I like pomelo, just hate peeling it.
I think I will like the flavors of this dish , spicy and tangy.
Seldom seen this in Thai cuisine/menu though. Thanks for introducing it to me :)

Thip said...

Hi dp,

Is this called "pla koong" in Thai?
I got a Thai cookbook from Border and thought the same thing, but then I tried some recipes and really liked them. Now it becomes my favorite one.

dp said...

thip: According to the book, it's called yam som oh. Does that ring a bell?

tigerfish: I've had flavors that were very similar, but without the pomelo. And you're right, it's not something you'd find on many menus.

Thip said...

I got it. :)

Anonymous said...

where on earth do you get pomelos in portland?

so glad to see them in the marketplace, but am unaware as to where i could purchase one.

dp said...

Hello Anonymous! I got my pomelos from Costco. They are grown in the US (florida or Californa). Pomelos can also be purchase from many Asian food stores, but I think these are shipped in from Asia to a distributor here in the US?? That's what I heard, at least.