Sweet, spicy and sour: John Chantarasak’s recipes for Thai salads | food

yum khai dao – fried egg salad

John Chantarasak's Thai fried-egg salad.

This salad is incredibly easy to make at home. At its core, eggs are cracked into smoking-hot oil and shallow-fried so the edges and bottom go crisp, the whites puff out and the yolks remain runny. Traditionally, they’re paired with Asian celery, but regular celery works just fine. The salad is tossed in a sweet, spicy and tart dressing that’s moreish and satisfying, showing how even the simplest of Thai dishes can achieve complex flavours.

Prep 15 mins
cooking 5 min
serves 2

2 large eggs
vegetable oilfor shallow-frying
½ small white onionthinly sliced ​​with the grain (from top to tail)
1 tomato saladcut into 8 pieces
2 celery sticksthinly sliced ​​and leaves picked (use the paler inner stalks with the leaves)
3 tbsp roughly chopped coriander

For the nahm yum dressing room
2 palm sugaror brown sugar
3 fish sauce
lime juice
tsp garlicthinly sliced
2 bird’s eye chilliesthinly sliced

To make the dressing, mix the sugar and a tablespoon of water in a mortar, to dissolve, then stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, garlic and chillies: it will taste spicy, sweet and tart.

Crack the eggs into individual ramekins. Pour 2cm oil into a shallow saucepan on a high heat. Once it starts to smoke, gently slide in an egg – it will immediately spit, crackle and bubble, so be careful. The egg white will puff up and develop large, transparent bubbles, and the base and edges will turn brown and crisp. Fry for a minute, then flip over, cook for a few seconds on the other side, then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towel to drain. Repeat with the second egg.

Cut the fried eggs into bite-sized pieces, avoiding cutting through the yolks, and arrange on a platter. In a bowl, gently toss the onion, tomato, celery, cilantro and dressing until combined, top the eggs with the salad and serve.

Yum aepbpeern – green apple and dried anchovy salad

John Chantarasak's green apple and crispy dried anchovy salad.
John Chantarasak’s green apple and crispy dried anchovy salad.

This salad commonly uses green mango, but I’ve used green apple, because varieties such as granny smith offer a similar crisp texture and sweet-tart flavor.

Prep 25 mins
cooking 5 min
serves 2

120ml vegetable oilfor deep-frying
2 tbsp dried anchoviesor dried shrimp (both from south-east Asian food shops)
tbsp raw peanutspreferably skin-on
8 makrut lime leaves6 left whole, 2 shredded
Juice of ½ lime
2 green apples
such as granny smith
½ small red onionthinly sliced ​​with the grain (from top to tail)
2 lemongrass stalksroot and outer husks removed, the rest thinly sliced
1 long red chillideseeded, flesh finely shredded
3 cilantro leaves
tbsp mint leaves

For the dressing room
1 long red chillideseeded and chopped
2 red bird’s eye chillieschopped
1 tbsp chopped coriander root gold stem
1 tbsp chopped garlic
½ tsp salt
tsp palm sugaror brown sugar
lime juice
fish sauce

To make the dressing, pound the chillies, coriander root, garlic and salt in a mortar until you have a smooth paste. Mix in the sugar, then stir in the lime juice and fish sauce.

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan until it reaches 180C – use a thermometer, or drop in a small cube of bread: if it turns golden brown in about 15 seconds, the oil is ready. Drop the dried anchovies into the oil and, using a slotted spoon, move them around for 15 seconds, until golden and crisp. Remove and drain on a plate lined with kitchen towel.

Repeat the frying, first with the peanuts, then the whole lime leaves, which will spit and sputter as they hit the hot oil.

Fill a medium bowl with water and add the lime juice. Cut the apple into 6cm-long x 3mm-wide strands (use a mandolin, if you have one), adding the strands to the water bowl as you go, so they don’t oxidize and turn an unattractive brown.

Drain the apple, then put in a bowl with all the other ingredients except the fried lime leaves. Add the dressing, toss to coat, then transfer to a platter and garnish with the crisp lime leaves.

Koi pla Isaan – citrus-cured tuna

John Chantarasak's Thai citrus-cured tuna salad.
John Chantarasak’s Thai citrus-cured tuna salad.

Koi involves lightly curing and cooking with citrus, usually lime juice, and is not dissimilar to the ceviches found throughout South America. Traditionally, the protein is chopped and incorporated with a sour and spicy dressing, and eaten alongside sticky rice and plenty of fresh herbs. I’ve used tuna, but salmon or trout would work just as well.

Prep 20 mins
cooking 25 mins
serves 2

2 fish sauce
lime juice
1 caster sugar
1 tsp toasted chilli powder (good price) (see below), or crushed dried chilli flakes or chilli powder, though neither will give you the same depth of flavor
120g tuna away golden bellycut into 2cm dice
3 lemongrass stalksroot and outer husks removed, rest thinly sliced
½ small red onionthinly sliced ​​with the grain of the onion (from top to tail)
1 spring onionthinly sliced
3 tbsp roughly chopped coriander sprigs
2 tbsp mint leaves
1 tbsp toasted rice powder (khao khua), see below

For the toasted chilli powder (makes 200g)
200g dried long red chilliesseeded
25g dried bird’s eye chillies

For the toasted rice powder (makes 100g)
100g uncooked sticky rice
4 outer lemongrass husks
chopped (optional)
2 makrut lime leaves (optional)

To garnish
2 dried bird’s eye chilliesstems on, dry-toasted
2 tbsp salmon or trout roe (optional)

To make the toasted chilli powder, toast the dried long red chillies in a wok on a medium heat for 10 minutes, moving them around frequently so they color and darken evenly – some blistering and charring is good for flavour, but too much will cause the final chilli powder to be bitter. Remove and repeat with the bird’s eye chillies, this time cooking them for five minutes. With a hand-held blender or spice grinder, blitz all the chillies to a powder – I like my good price to have a bit more texture than shop-bought chilli powder, and more like sand. Be careful not to blitz any of the chilli seeds that have fallen out of the chillies and become burnt, because they will be bitter. Store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to two months.

For the rice powder, toast the uncooked rice, lemongrass husks and lime leaves in a dry wok on a low heat for five minutes, moving the mix constantly so the grains go a deep golden brown and smell toasty and nutty. Remove and discard the lemongrass and lime leaves, then grind the rice in a mortar to a coarse powder. Work in batches, if need be, so as to not overcrowd the mortar. Alternatively, use a spice grinder or hand-held blender, but be careful not to overgrind the grains into too fine a powder: you are looking for a texture that resembles sand. Keep in an airtight container in a dark place for up to two weeks; any longer, and the rice will lose its aromatic fragrance.

In a bowl, mix the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and toasted chilli powder, until the sugar dissolves. The mixture should taste hot, sour and salty. In a large bowl, combine the diced tuna, lemongrass, red onion, spring onion, coriander and mint, toss with the dressing and plate immediately, because the fish will start to “cook” in the acidic lime juice. Sprinkle some rice powder on top and garnish with the toasted dried bird’s eye chillies and salmon or trout fish roe, if using.

  • Recipes extracted from Kin Thai: Modern Thai Recipes to Cook at Home, by John Chantarasak, published on 26 May by Hardie Grant at £22. To order a copy for £19.14, go to guardianbookshop.com

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