I can be a real snob when it comes to salad. I rarely order them at restaurants because most of the time I think “I can make this at home”. Also, it’s hard to find a restaurant doing salads justice. Well nowadays it is easier because people are giving salads more love, but generally it’s still pretty boring.
When it comes to excellent salads, it’s really about the quality of ingredient (actually this is with most dishes, not only salads) and I’m not keen on pre bagged or boxed “Spring Mix” or “factory” quality greens. They have no flavour, or the flavour isn’t true to the ingredient. It never bothered me so much before until I started growing my own, and buying them from local farmer’s. There’s a difference and it’s noticeable.
Summer is coming to an end, and although we say goodbye to our beautiful growing season in Vancouver, we don’t have to say goodbye to it all. An alternative to using local greens is to look outside our own turf. Ingredients don’t always have to be sourced locally to be good, and I’ve always been more about quality than locality.
When it comes to Asian cuisine, salads are more common in South East Asia than East Asia, and they are particulaly popular in Thailand. Although greens are available, many of their salads are made with herbs, and sometimes fruit. The most popular Thai salad known to the Western world is the Green Mango Salad, but here is owner and chef Angus An of Maenam‘s take on it.
Maenam has been named “Best Thai Restaurant” by Vancouver Magazine for 6 years in a row – basically since it opened. It serves traditional Thai food with modern and upscale flare, and is one of the few restaurants where I’ll actually order a salad. Here, they are much more interesting than “spring mix” or Caesar’s. Sure, apples and oranges to compare, but if I had to pick – I could.
I asked award winning chef An to pair the salad with his choice of Pure Leaf tea and he picked the Pure Leaf Green Tea with Honey, which is also one of my favourites. It went well with the lemon too, but the slight sweetness of the green tea with honey lent itself well to the salad. If you like, you could mix the lemon and the green tea too.
Thai food is about balancing sweet, salty, sour and spicy, so mixing the tarter lemon with the sweeter green tea with honey makes sense.
To be honest, the pairing was the “excuse” to really just drink it while he cooked. I don’t blame him!
Grilled Tuna and Sour Mango Salad Recipe
By Chef Angus An of Maenam
200g albacore tuna, cleaned
2 Tbls Roasted Cashews (or fried cashews in pork fat, optional)
45 g julienned Sour Green Mango
Small handful of picked coriander leaves
Small handful of picked mint leaves
1 Tbl finely sliced shallots
10g sliced long leave coriander
2 Tbl finely sliced lemongrass
1 Tbl finely sliced kaffir lime leaves
1 oz coconut cream
2 oz of the dressing below
Dressing: (makes 800ml)
30g Galangal slices
60 g coriander root/stem
Zest of 1 kaffir lime
Juice of 1 kaffir lime
Pinch of salt
200 g white sugar
200 g lime juice
200 g fish sauce
To make the dressing, use a mortar and pestle to pound the solid part of the ingredients into a paste, combine with sugar and stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. It should be equally sweet, sour and spicy. Just before serving, mix in the appropriate amount of coconut cream (tempered, to avoid clotting).