This week I’m celebrating the publication of my newest cookbook, Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking: 125 Real Thai Recipes. It’s out in the world just in time for Thai New Year, which takes place on April 13th, and is known as the Songkran festival. Songkran is a time of celebration, centered on visiting the elders to show them respect and affection, and playing outside in the sunshine with water-throwing as the major activity. Being doused with water as you walk down the street brings laughter and delight, since it’s ferociously hot in April and since that’s the heart of this annual holiday season. It’s not a food centered holiday, in terms of specific dishes, but of course, every day in Thailand is a deliciously food-centered day!
This isn’t a springtime dish, in that Thailand has no spring per se; but it reminds me of the dazzling displays of pastel colors and textures on tree branches and in wooded areas as blossoms and leaves pop out overnight where nothing but sticks and bare boughs stood before. This is yum some-oh, yum meaning salad, Thai-style; some-oh being the Thai name for pomelo, the huge, lumpy, thick-skinned first cousin of grapefruit which is cherished throughout Asia. Pomelo season is citrus season, early to mid winter, so you’re unlikely to find any in the marketplace for many months. But grapefruit makes an excellent substitute, especially pink and ruby-red grapefruit and I adore the color and sharp, bright flavor its juiciness brings.
- ¼ cup sweetened shredded coconut, or shredded unsweetened coconut
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups bite-sized chunks of peeled, sectioned grapefruit or pomelo
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped shallots, purple onion, or onion
- 1 or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot green chilies, or dried red chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted salted peanuts
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint or fresh cilantro
- Leaves of Boston or bibb lettuce for accompaniment
- Set a small bowl by the stove, to hold the coconut when it has finished toasting. In a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the coconut, stirring and tossing often, until it turns a handsome, soft brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the toasted coconut into the bowl and set it aside to cool.
- Combine the lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, and salt in a medium bowl and stir well to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add the grapefruit, shallots, and chilies, and toss gently to coat them with the dressing. Add the peanuts, fresh mint, and toasted coconut and toss gently just enough to mix and season everything evenly.
- Arrange lettuce leaves on one side of a deep serving plate or small platter. Scoop out the grapefruit, using a slotted spoon, and mound it on the plate. Serve at once. (Remaining juice makes a delicious beverage for the cook!)
If you’re making this in advance, hold the cilantro, peanuts, and toasted coconut until just before serving time, so that they remain crisp and fresh and at their best.