I promised you this recipe yesterday when I did a review of the beautiful Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong which has just been published. Luke’s book is a culinary journey of the societies of Southeast Asia sitting along the meandering, and quite long, Mekong River. The recipes in the book are very local and rigorously authentic,recipes like Duck Blood Salad.
I know, you hear that recipe name and you react. The very good news is that the book has many, many recipes that will not give pause to a Westerner. And, the ingredients list will not send you on safari to find some Asian market. Although, you probably owe it to yourself to take an afternoon, find one of those markets, and explore. You won’t leave empty handed.
This salad is from Myanmar, which is what we now call Burma. It’s from a small indigenous people who live on a large remote lake. The lake supports fishing and tomato growing. There are 7,000 acres of tomatoes in the lake, staked out like an array of vineyards. It’s probably the ultimate hydroponic system in the world with a harvest of 61,000 tons of tomatoes a year. So naturally, the local farmers have come up with wonderful recipes, like this salad delight.
You’ll probably never get to Myanmar and, if you do, this remote lake with its massive tomato crop is something you probably won’t see. It’s a world away. Yet, that tomato array and this recipe and the chili flakes that are integral to the recipe — all those things would not exist if Christopher Columbus had not ventured to the New World. The impact on lives and cultures is ever present and actually expanding. It’s a big world and yet a close one.
Inle Lake Green Tomato Salad
Yield: serves 4 as part of a shared meal
For the salad:
- 5 green tomatoes, sliced
- 3 red Asian shallots, sliced
- 1 handful sliced coriander (cilantro)
- 2 teaspoons roasted crushed unsalted peanuts
- 2 teaspoons ground black sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- 3 teaspoons Garlic Oil (see Note below)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 red chili, sliced
- Coriander (cilantro) sprigs
- ½ teaspoon Fried Garlic (see Note below)
In a bowl, combine the tomato, shallot, coriander, peanuts, sesame seeds, chili flakes, garlic oil and a pinch of sea salt. Mix well.
Garnish with the chili and coriander, sprinkle with the fried garlic and serve immediately.
To make fried garlic and garlic oil, pour 1 cup vegetable oil into a wok and heat to 180°C (350°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds. Add 6 finely chopped garlic cloves and fry until golden – be careful not to overcook the garlic, as it will keep cooking once it is removed from the heat. Strain the garlic through a metal sieve and place on paper towels to dry. Store the fried garlic in an airtight container for up to 4 days; this recipe makes about 2 tablespoons. Reserve the garlic-flavored oil to use in salads; it will keep for up to 2 weeks if stored in a cool place.
Source [recipe and picture]: Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong [Hardie Grant Books, 2015]