What’s in a name?
I’d love to call this just “Thai Salad.” That would flow better. But I can’t. I can’t because, while this recipe certainly borrows from some Thai flavours that I love, it’s not authentically Thai, and it bugs me to no end to see things labelled a certain way, and then include ingredients that make it more generic. Or even totally wrong. Chain restaurants are notorious for this. Your chicken burger is not Thai just because it has peanut sauce on it. Your salad is not Greek because you added Feta and black olives to a bowl of iceberg lettuce and mealy, out of season tomatoes. And that “Mexican pasta?” With the stringy chicken and Tex-Mex pre-shredded cheese blend doused in insipid salsa? Not even going there. /rant
Anyhoo, the flavour profile of this salad is definitely a nod to my favourite things about Thai food – it’s fresh, with lots of texture. The dressing is slightly sweet and tangy, with a little heat and a good salt balance. There’s a pleasantly nutty background from the sesame oil, which of course is not traditionally Thai at all, but really works. And the salt comes from dark soy sauce, in a nod to my vegetarian friends. But fish sauce would definitely work, in smaller proportions. Leftover chicken or steak would make this salad into a nice, light meal.
Zest of half a lime
Juice of one lime
1/2 a small bulb of garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
2 teaspoons agave or honey
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon neutral oil
Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mix well. Let them get to know each other for a while in the fridge before serving.
To make the salad, I cut iceberg lettuce up, coleslaw style and mixed it with some carrot slaw. That became the base. Then I sprinkled over some thinly sliced red pepper, radish and shallots, some diced cucumber and some cashews that I lightly toasted with a sprinkling of black pepper. I also added copious amounts of fresh Thai basil, which I feel is essential. You could use cilantro if you’re so inclined. I tossed it all with the dressing just before serving.