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Southern Thai Rice Salad

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Serves six.

  • To learn more, read:
    Vibrant Thai Salads
  • by Su-Mei Yu from Fine Cooking
    Issue 33

This salad looks beautiful when you arrange it, so be sure to present it before tossing. If you can find salt-packed anchovies for the dressing, use them—they’ll taste much better than oil-packed. For the chile powder, start with 3/4 tsp. and increase the spice according to your taste.

For the dressing:
  • 2 or 3 large lemongrass stalks, green parts removed
  • One 1-1/2-inch piece galangal (or one 2-inch piece ginger)
  • 1/3 cup dry salted anchovies, rinsed and patted dry (or 2 oz. oil-packed anchovies, drained)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 3 or 4 large shallots, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 3 or 4 kaffir lime leaves, torn (or grated zest of 2 limes)
For the salad:
  • 4 cups cooked long-grain rice, at room temperature
  • 1 cup blanched green beans, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 medium head Belgian endive, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced arugula
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 cup coarsely grated green mango (or 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, sliced in matchsticks, mixed with 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (hard outer layers removed), minced
  • 5 oz. (1 cup) finely chopped hot-smoked fish, such as salmon, trout, bluefish, sturgeon, or tuna
  • 1 cup toasted fresh coconut flakes
  • 1 Tbs. thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves (or grated zest of 1 lime)
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
  • 3/4 to 2 tsp. dried chile powder
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges; more limes for squeezing
Make the dressing:

Peel away the hard outer stems of the lemongrass stalks until you reach the inner white and purple section. Halve the stalks lengthwise and then slice them crosswise into 2-inch lengths. Rinse, dry, and then bruise lightly with the side of a large knife or cleaver. Peel the galangal or ginger, cut it into chunks, and bruise it; set it aside with the lemongrass. Bring the anchovies and the water to a boil; cook until the anchovies begin to fall apart, about 10 minutes (2 minutes if using oil-packed anchovies). Add the lemongrass, galangal or ginger, sugar, shallots, and lime leaves or zest. Boil until the liquid turns syrupy and sticky, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat; set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Strain the dressing and discard the strainer contents. You should have about 1/2 cup of dressing.

Assemble the salad:

On a large platter, arrange four dome-shaped mounds of rice.

Southern Thai Rice Salad Recipe
Mold four mounds of rice, using a bnowl to get a good dome shape.

Between the mounds, arrange the green beans, endive, arugula, bean sprouts, and green mango or Granny Smith apple. Arrange a couple of small piles of minced lemongrass and minced smoked fish in between. Sprinkle with the coconut flakes, lime leaves or zest, and orange zest. Put the dried chile powder in a tiny sauce bowl at one end of the platter. Arrange lime wedges all around.

Southern Thai Rice Salad Recipe
Arrange the main salad ingredients in alternating piles.
Southern Thai Rice Salad Recipe
Sprinkle with the coconut flakes, lime leaves, or zest, and orange zest.

To serve, present the platter and then pour the dressing all over the ingredients on the platter. Sprinkle with the amount of chile powder you desire, reserving some for those who want more. Squeeze the lime wedges over all. Toss thoroughly and serve.

Southern Thai Rice Salad Recipe
Toss gently and thoroughly to blend all the flavors and textures.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 390; Fat (g): 11; Fat Calories (kcal): 100; Saturated Fat (g): 8; Protein (g): 13; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1; Carbohydrates (g): 65; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): 860; Cholesterol (mg): 15; Fiber (g): 6;

Photo: Amy Albert

This salad has it all! The flavors and textures are vibrant, the presentation is gorgeous, and it can be mostly made ahead. Guests were dazzled by the appearance of the salad as it was presented at the table and actually paused for a moment of silence while it was photographed! After tossing, the salad was eagerly devoured by one and all.

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