On Christmas, Jeff and I cooked a Thai feast out of the Pok Pok cookbook. We put together a list of dishes to try and spent the week before the holiday scouring small Asian grocery stores for exotic and unfamiliar ingredients. On Christmas day we gobbled up stew and sticky rice and pad thai. The flavors were big and bold and funky, and I loved it, except for the green papaya salad. I had thought it would be a staple recipe, since it was mostly uncomplicated, unlike the other dishes we tried. But it was too funky, too fishy, too unlike the green mango and papaya salads I love. It bore only a passing resemblance to the one in the photos.
When we go out for Thai food I will order a green mango or green papaya salad (is there a difference? I can’t tell). Or at least I will think about ordering it, and try to convince Jeff we should get one. I love the crunch and the sweet/tangy fruit with the tart/salty dressing. But confronted with a more authentic version, I ate a few bites and then left it on my plate. Which made me wonder if it was worth recreating the restaurant experience at all, or just using it as a starting point to create something different. I chose option B.
Part of my reasoning is that green papayas and green mangos are a pain to find. They require a trip to a different grocery store, and I have no idea if I’m picking a “ripe” one because, you know, I’m buying a fruit that is intentionally sold when it is not yet ripe. I just avoided the problem entirely, opting to build my salad around ripe mangos. At least that way, I have some idea when I’m getting a good one.
Mangos are one of those fruits that doesn’t seem to have much seasonality because it’s always in the grocery store, even if it’s only in the freezer aisle. But I recently learned that they hit their season, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, in early June and are ripe through the middle of the summer. Not that they’re a local fruit, mine are trucked in from Hawaii, I think. But during that short season, they’re totally worth the splurge. And while you could just cut them up to eat raw, or make one-ingredient ice cream (still really want to try that) or a delicious grilled cheese, at least a few of them should end up in this Thai mango salad.
As long as I was ignoring the actually-from-Thailand recipe sitting on my bookshelf, I figured I had license to do whatever I wanted to make this salad easier/better/more delicious. I opted to leave the mango in larger pieces instead of wrestling the ripe fruit into neat julienne strips – good choice. I added strips of scrambled egg to make this more of a dinner salad while still keeping it vegetarian – great choice, that scrambled egg is so good! And I used a simple Thai-flavored dressing, rather than trying to spice it up with exotic ingredients that I’m probably not going to have on hand most of the time.
So this is not like the mango salad at your local Thai restaurant, and it’s probably not like one that you can get on the streets of Thailand either. But it is one I can put together in half an hour with ingredients I can get at the local store. The hardest part is picking the ripe mangos.
- 2 mangos, cut into ½ inch wide strips
- 1 red pepper, shredded
- ½ red onion, shredded
- 1 cup green beans (thin ones, like haricot verts, are the best here), cut into 2 inch pieces*
- ½ cup bean sprouts
- ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp fish sauce (or soy sauce)
- ½ tsp neutral oil, like canola
- Thai dressing (2-4 tbs, depending on your preference)
- ¼ cup chopped peanuts
- COMBINE chopped mangos, red pepper and onion slices, green beans, bean sprouts, tomatoes, cilantro, and mint in a large serving bowl and toss to combine.
- WHISK the eggs with the fish sauce (or soy sauce, if using) in a small bowl. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add a half teaspoon of oil. Add the eggs and more the pan around a bit to get an even layer of egg on the bottom. Let the egg cook for 2-3 minutes, until it's set and has little brown spots on the bottom.
- FLIP the eggs to cook the second side - you can either try the wrist-snap-flip (always good to practice!) or just slide the eggs onto a plate and flip them back in to the pan, uncooked side down. Cook for about another 2 minutes, until both sides are lightly brown. Remove the eggs from the pan and let them cool for a minute or two.
- SLICE the egg into strips about a half inch wide and 2 inches long.
- ADD scrambled egg and dressing to the salad and toss to combine. Taste, and add more dressing if needed - I like to start out with a few spoonfuls and then add more if I want it. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top and serve.
This salad is best when you serve it right away, but it lasts for a few days in the fridge without a problem.