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Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a fan of Sichuan food, thanks in part to local Brighton restaurant Lucky Star and in part to the books of Fuschia Dunlop. I’ve always found Chinese food rather daunting in comparison to other Asian cuisines – perhaps because it’s often harder to eat something and pick out the ingredients by taste and sight – but the simultaneously spicy and reassuring qualities of Sichuan cooking are like catnip to me. Mapo tofu is a familiar dish to anyone who has eaten in a standard Chinese restaurant in the US but most of these versions are pretty inauthentic, or at least taste like a completely different dish to me. Proper Sichuan mapo tofu is searingly spicy, featuring a combination of numbing Sichuan peppercorns and hot dried chilies, balanced by the smooth cooling tofu. The dish supposedly originates in Chengdu and means pock-marked old lady tofu. Like many classic dishes, there’s an origin story about this one old lady who made amazing tofu, which all restaurants in Chengdu now promise to emulate. I’m not sure about the existence of the old lady, but like all recipe origin stories, this one promises one true dish that all others must emulate. It’s a model that places a high premium on authenticity but seems to allow for endless debate about the exact right way to do it. In other words, it’s the perfect dish for the novice to learn…

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I’ve read on a few blogs that Persian food tastes better than it looks, and I kind of get what they’re saying. Photographing the pheasant fesenjan was something of a challenge, because no matter how beautifully jewel-toned and succulent the dish looked in real life, photographing in close up did make it look a little bit like the Chinese restaurant scene from eXistenZ. But the idea that Persian cuisine generally looks unappetising doesn’t really hold true for me, perhaps because so much of what I cook is braised, stewed or otherwise formless. I don’t really do meat and two veg. To put it another way, Mr Lemur has unkindly suggested that this blog could easily be called Things in Bowls. So the lack of visually discrete ingredients in these Persian dishes isn’t exactly unusual to me. But what I think people really mean when they say Persian food tastes better than it looks is that the tastes are unexpectedly bright, concentrated, and punchy in comparison to the homey looking exterior. Fesenjan and khoresht ghormeh sabzi do look good to me, but their cosy style gives no clue to the amazing vibrancy of the flavours lurking beneath the surface.

For this reason, I was really excited to make khoresht ghormeh sabzi, a herb and green vegetable stew that, unlike fesenjan, I’d never made before. I love cooking greens of all kinds, and this dish promised a giddy pile up of herbal flavours. I read a bunch of different recipes and decided that, since I was making the dish to complement the fesenjan, a vegetarian version would be more appropriate. Plus, I wanted to keep the freshness and lightness of the herbs front and centre rather than using them as foundation for a meat dish. It really is a wonderful excess of greenery. Preparing the dish makes you feel like the healthiest person alive, as you chop enormous piles of spinach, dill, parsley, cilantro and more. Using herbs not in small quantities as flavouring but in giant amounts as ingredients is always liberating, and this dish really lets you go to town with the leaves. You’ll want to visit a grocery store that lets you buy herbs in generous bunches, not meagre sprigs in sealed plastic containers. Most of the ingredients are easy enough to find – spinach, dill, cilantro etc – but you might have a bit more trouble with fresh methi or fenugreek leaves. Luckily, we have a good Indian grocer nearby which always carries methi, but if you’re stuck, you could probably use dried. While it would counter the freshness that is a central part of the dish, methi actually holds up quite well in dried form.

Khoresht ghormeh sabzi, or Persian herb stew

  • large bunch of spinach
  • large bunch of parsley
  • large bunch of dill
  • large bunch of cilantro
  • large bunch of methi / fenugreek leaves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 bunch of scallions or green onions
  • 1 bunch of chives
  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 6-8 slices of dried lemon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • oil for cooking

First, chop the onions, leeks and scallions into small pieces. Wash and finely chop all the herbs and greens. Now, most traditional recipes for this dish seem to involve complicated frying of herbs in separate pans, but since I’m doing a meatless version, it didn’t seem worthwhile. My Iranian friends may disapprove. Instead, simply heat 2-3 tbsps of oil and sauté the onion, leek and scallion until soft. Now add the spinach and herbs and cook down for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Once the greens have diminished in size and darkened in colour a good bit, add generous amounts of salt and pepper, plus turmeric and dried lemon slices, and stir for a minute. Now add about a cup of water, cover the pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for another 15 minutes and then add the beans. Simmer for a further 15 minutes or so, longer if you’d like.

Serves 4

I’m a big fan of pomegranate and am always looking for savoury uses for it. My cousin recently mentioned a fondness for Persian food and so when she came with an old friend for a visit, I immediately thought of the pomegranate and poultry dish fesenjan. Fesenjan is a special occasion dish in Iran and is apparently associated especially with family occasions. It’s also dead easy to make, so it seemed perfectly appropriate both to celebrate seeing my lovely cousin and to cook on a weeknight.

You can make fesenjan with chicken, but it is also traditionally made with pheasant or duck, and I decided on pheasant to add gaminess to the dish. I was regretting that decision when I got the birds home and realised quite how funky they smell, but a good rinse under the tap and a proper clean out of the cavity and they became a lot less pungent. They’re also remarkably easy birds to joint, with dense meat that comes off the bone neatly and a layer of fat you can pretty much peel off by hand if you don’t need it for roasting. Once you have the birds prepped, there are only three more ingredients to the whole dish, and yet the flavour is complex and sophisticated. Some magic is worked among bird, walnuts and pomegranate that gives fesenjan a uniquely seductive quality.

To balance the richness of the fesenjan, I served it with khoresht ghormeh sabzii, a bright herb and green vegetable stew that I’ll post about next.

Fesenjan

  • 2 pheasants, or 1 chicken, jointed
  • 2 cups of walnuts
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3/4 cup of pomegranate molasses
  • fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • oil, salt and pepper

First grind the walnuts in the food processor to a fine meal, being careful not to over-process (you don’t want nut butter). Heat a couple of tbsp oil in a wide, shallow pan and brown the pheasant or chicken pieces all over. Remove to a plate.

Chop the onion and sauté  in the same pan. Once they begin to colour, add the walnuts. Continue to sauté the mixture for several minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. The walnuts will begin to toast and change colour slightly.

Add the pheasant back into the pan and add about a cup of water. Pour in the pomegranate molasses and stir well. Add about a teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Raise the heat till bubbling, then lower to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30-40 mins, turning the meat occasionally, stirring and adding more water if the sauce is getting too thick.

You have two options for serving: either leave the pieces of meat as they are, or remove and shred them, then put it back into the sauce. I would be more inclined to shred chicken than pheasant or duck, but either way works. Sprinkle the finished dish with pomegranate seeds and serve with rice.

Serves 4

Just a quick post to say how delighted I am to have won the Chinese New Year recipe contest on Farina’s Asian Pantry blog. I entered my recipe for Sichuan braised beef cheek with orange, and Farina’s Singapore foodie judging panel loved the braise and found it to be both approachable and versatile. Yay! Farina has a fab looking new iPad and iPhone app on demystifying Asian cuisine and her blog is chock full of recipe ideas and lovely photography. I’m honoured that she enjoyed my food.

Chileans take their sandwiches – or rather sánguches – pretty seriously. There’s a whole range of nationally-specific sandwiches, some named after former presidents and all made with uniquely Chilean breads, that you can eat in just about any cafe in Santiago. People are partisans of their favourites and will go a long way to get the best ave palta (chicken and avocado) or barros luco (steak and cheese). They sound simple, but something about the bread, the local cheese, the amazing avocados and the ají chilies elevates these sandwiches to more than the sum of their parts. The most exciting Chilean sandwich of all is the chacarero, consisting of thinly sliced beef, avocado, tomatoes, green beans and ají. It might not (yet) have the international recognition of the bánh mì, the torta or the croque monsieur, but the chacarero deserves to take its place in the roster of the world’s truly great sandwiches.

Oddly enough, the first chacarero I had wasn’t in Chile but in Boston. There’s a hole in the wall place in Downtown Crossing that serves nothing but chacareros, run by a Chilean immigrant who clearly knows a gap in the market when he sees one. But my real introduction to the world of the chacarero was visiting Santiago with Mr Lemur, who is Chilean and thus feels very strongly about his national cuisine. (If I ever make the mistake of asking what he wants to eat, the answer will always be chacarero. I think he views the sánguche as a basic food group.) As we visited different neighbourhoods in Santiago, I began to suspect that tourist sites were less of an organising principle than sandwich cafes. We compared chacareros in chic Providencia, in an American-style shopping mall, and my favourite version at the Bar Inglés, near La Moneda.  A major difference is the bread used, and the diner is sometimes given a choice among molde (sliced bread), frica (soft roll), or occasionally marraqueta (kind of like a Portuguese roll). I like the frica best, but it’s hard to replicate outside of Chile, so sliced bread is a good choice if you’re making your own.

The chacarero is obviously pretty easy to make, and the only real questions are which bread to use, which cut of beef, and which chiles. You can experience meat slide if you’re not careful so you don’t want beef that’s at all tough. I’ve used flank steak to good effect and also sirloin, but regardless of cut, you want to ask your butcher to slice the beef very thin. For a vegetarian version, you can just leave out the meat and still have a rocking sandwich. It would be pretty good with a fried portabella too. Bread is a little harder to replicate. I’ve found that a British soft roll is a decent replacement for frica, though ideally not the floury kind. A sourdough or chewy wholemeal loaf works well for the molde version. Burger baps are a bit too mealy, though, and baguettes can be too crusty. Lastly, the hot sauce: Chilean ají is not especially spicy but it is usually chopped fresh, which makes a brightly flavoured condiment. You could use a serrano or jalapeño instead, but since I didn’t have actual ají, I used sriracha, which is about the same spiciness level.

Chacarero sandwich

  • 1 sirloin steak, sliced thin
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt
  • large handful green beans
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • small handful cilantro
  • hot sauce
  • sourdough bread

Crush the garlic and mix with a glug of olive oil, the paprika, and a good pinch of salt. Marinade the meat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the green beans till tender and then julienne. Put them in a bowl and mix with some oil and salt. Slice the tomato and salt it too.

Fry the steak in a nonstick pan for a minute on each side, or until done as you like it. Cut into 1 inch slices. Toast the bread. Mash the avocado into a spread and add salt and a little lemon juice.

To assemble the sandwich, spread a slice of bread generously with avocado, then layer on steak, tomatoes, and green beans. Top with cilantro leaves and hot sauce. Enjoy your entry into the wonderful world of the Chilean sánguche…

Serves 2

I don’t know London all that well yet. I can’t tell you how to get anywhere on the tube without a map and large swathes of the place are a complete mystery to me. Since I am mostly there for work or for films and theatre, I spend most of my time in the parts of central London that are not known for their chowhounding potential. Nonetheless, there are some things I consider to be a matter of basic pride. I can direct you to a very good Thai restaurant. I can take you for house-made pork dumplings. And I know where they make good nasi lemak.

Nasi lemak is real comfort food. Often considered to be a national dish of Malaysia, this combination of coconut rice, crispy anchovies, peanuts, cucumber, sambal and often chicken, egg or other proteins hits all the right spots of flavour and texture. Originally eaten for breakfast, it has become so popular that it’s now served all day. I haven’t yet made a thorough study of London’s more far-flung Malaysian restaurants (though obviously, this is an urgent goal) but if you’re near Soho, you can’t do better than C&R Cafe, located down the kind of alley I think of as highly promising and some of my friends view as mildly alarming. C&R is exactly the kind of Malaysian place I like – lacking in decor and general warmth, but more than making up for the formica atmosphere with reassuringly flavourful food. Their char kway teow is shrimpy and chewy, their Singapore laksa is rich and coconuty, and their Assam laksa is hot and sour. And their nasi lemak is the very definition of soul food for the hungry and out of sorts.

Yesterday, I had an early start at work and found myself in London at 4pm not having eaten all day. Obviously, I am not the kind of person that just forgets to eat, so I wasn’t feeling especially great about my situation. Luckily, while I had a plan to meet Thifty Gal in the evening to see Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre, she couldn’t meet me beforehand and I had a couple of hours free. Much as I love the very generous Thrifty Gal, my idea of a promising alley is her idea of hell, so eating solo was just what the doctor ordered. I made a beeline for C&R and, since it was technically breakfast, couldn’t resist a plate of nasi lemak. Their version comes with a substantial portion of curry chicken, as well as achar, or pickled vegetables. Their home-made sambal is only moderately spicy but nicely oniony, and those crunchy anchovies are little nuggets of salty heaven.

As it turned out, we both hated the play (seriously, there’s a good reason the book’s not told from the monster’s perspective) and wished we’d gone to a bar instead, but I can’t complain. I got to see a good friend, watch the charismatic Benedict Cumberbatch on stage, and set my over-stressed self to rights with a restorative nasi lemak.

C&R Cafe, 3-4 Rupert Court, London W1D 6DY

 

Vietnamese bánh xèo might be the quintessential eating out food: seemingly designed to be served to order in a restaurant environment, these stuffed rice crêpes are a little finicky to put together at home. You need to have all of your fillings and herbs washed and prepped in advance, and then the crêpes themselves must be eaten as soon as they are cooked. Bánh xèo are thus not ideally suited to relaxed home cooking, especially if the cook wants to eat with her guests. Undeterred by the one-crêpe-at-a-time serving problem, I’ve made bánh xèo a few times, sucked in by their addictive combination of fresh leaves and soft, chewy pancake. I’m also a big fan of Viet dishes that involve wrapping things in lettuce and dipping into sauce – something about the do-it-yourself quality appeals in its tactility. And bánh xèo are actually quite easy to make – pouring the batter into a perfect circle takes a bit of practice, but unlike French crêpes, you don’t have to flip them. So once you commit to having everything chopped in advance, making bánh xèo offers almost instant sizzling gratification.

When I’ve eaten bánh xèo in restaurants, the filling has always been shrimp and pork, but I’ve read that in Vietnam there are many more variants. I’ll be able to research this important question later in the year when I go on my very exciting eating trip to Southeast Asia, but for now I have been experimenting with the wide world of Things One Could Put in Bánh Xèo. As is the way with such experiments, it has often been led by things I have in the fridge. This time, I hit on a combination of lop cheong and smoked tofu along with the traditional beansprouts and scallions.

I should say that I’m a bit obsessed with lop cheong (or lap xuong in Vietnam). This air-dried and cured Asian sausage is sweet and almost winey tasting, and often very fatty. It provides some of the unique flavour in Chinese sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf and it’s a great pantry staple. The first web page I ever made was about lop cheong: I was at a deathly dull class on web design and we were asked to make a mock up of a site for work. Most of my classmates seemed to have all their material ready to go but I was recently hired and didn’t have anything to use. Naturally, I made a website about sausages, and a sample page on lop cheong. I think the class leader thought I was taking the mickey, but I did end up making friends with the woman sitting next to me, who turned out to be a fellow fan of the Chinese sausage. Anyway, the point is that it should come as no surprise that I came up with the idea of adding this air-dried sweet sausage to my Vietnamese crêpes.

Bánh xèo with lop cheong and tofu

If you wanted to make this dish vegetarian, obviously just leave out the sausage and add more smoked tofu. It’s worth getting the smoked kind for both flavour and texture.

for crêpes

  • 1/4 cup yellow split mung beans, soaked for 30 mins
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • vegetable oil

for fillings

  • 1 block smoked tofu
  • 5 lop cheong
  • 4 handfuls beansprouts
  • bunch of scallions

for wrapping

  • 1 lettuce
  • bunch of mint
  • bunch of cilantro
  • bunch of Thai basil

for dipping

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsps palm sugar
  • 2 Thai red chilies
  • 1 lime
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce

Firstly, you want to soak your mung beans. They only take a half hour and add a really nice nuttiness to the batter. This crêpe batter I learned from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Hot Sour Salty Sweet, a splendid book on Southeast Asian food cultures.

While you’re waiting for the mung beans to soften, make the nuoc cham dipping sauce.

Begin by pounding a small garlic clove in a mortar and pestle along with a chili. (You might want to chop the chile finely first to make life easier.) Next, add the palm sugar and pound until it becomes liquidy. It looks like a lot of sugar but  be generous: this amount is a minimum and you might well want more. Next add the fish sauce and a good glug of warm water. Stir to dissolve the sugar well. Now decant into a bowl and add the juice of a lime. Taste for flavour balance. You might find yourself adding more lime juice or more water. Set aside.

Now make the pancake batter. Put drained mung beans and coconut milk into a mini prep or small blender and process till smooth. (Don’t do this in a big food processor as it won’t work and will look disgusting. Trust me on this.) Move to a larger blender and add the water, rice flour, salt, sugar and turmeric and process till smooth again. Now sieve the batter to get rid of lumps and let stand for a half hour.

While you’re waiting, prepare the filling and toppings. Slice the lop cheong thinly and steam for 15 minutes. Chop the scallions and tofu. Wash the lettuce leaves, beansprouts and herbs. Put the greens on a plate for serving, and lay out the fillings close to the cooker.

Now you’re ready to make the crêpes. Heat a wok or non-stick frying pan to high and wipe the surface with a paper towel soaked in oil. Pour in 1/3 cup of batter and as you pour, lift and angle the pan to make the batter run into a circle. Put it back on the heat and distribute sausage, tofu and beansprouts over half the surface. Cover, turn down the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes. The underside of the crêpe should be browning and a bit crispy, the top side soft and bubbled. Lift the crêpe onto a plate and fold in half.

Serve immediately as you cook them, for guests to wrap in lettuce and herbs.

Serves 4 for a main course, more for appetisers.

Recipe adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet.

When people ask me what I miss from living in the USA, my answer is always Mexican food. It’s a bit of an obnoxious reply, as generally Americans ask this question expecting that I might miss something actually originating from the US. I don’t especially miss crappy chocolate or diner food, although if I’m being honest, I do sometimes crave biscuits and gravy. But it is Mexican food that is the big loss, and I don’t mean it as an insult because I think of Mexican food as more than just an import. It’s a crucial part of the North American culinary landscape, whether in Susan Feniger and Rick Bayless’s fantastic restaurants in Los Angeles and Chicago or in the more everyday influence of Mexican immigration to the farmlands of Iowa. I miss going to the farmer’s market to buy tomatillos and poblanos. I miss the local bodega that sells fresh corn tortillas and nopales by the pound. And oh how I miss hot, greasy carne asada quesadillas for lunch, eaten on the hoof, with the promise of carnitas with crunchy pig ear on Sunday.

The UK doesn’t have a lot of Mexican immigrants and so very few of these ingredients or flavours have seeped into the culture here. There’s no range of dried chilies in the stores, and while you can buy tomatillos in London’s Borough Market, paying £7 for a tiny bag might make you weep. Britain can also seem stuck in a racist vision of Mexico that wouldn’t fly at all if aimed at South Asian cultures – Southern Rail has a shockingly offensive campaign featuring a stupid Mexican who speaks pigeon English and a local taqueria actually has a sign of a “lazy” Mexican sleeping under a cactus!

But recently, things have started to change. The Cool Chile Co. makes fresh tortillas daily and ships them to your door, along with masa harina, spices, and of course chilies. I used some of their ingredients to make my traditional Christmas mole this year and the knowledge that proper tortillas are just a day away by first class post is highly reassuring. And the success of Wahaca, Thomasina Miers’s Mexican street food restaurant in London has spawned a rash of new, ‘authentic’ Mexican eateries, such as the excellent Lupita, which focuses on Mexico City food.

It’s something of a sign that Miers felt the need to spell Oaxaca phonetically, so unfamiliar was this mecca of Mexican cuisine to the demographic she was aiming for, but her food – like the chorizo quesadilla with pickled vegetables above – has won over the crowds. When I first visited, every single table was eating burritos. I ordered the cochinita pibil (pork braised in achiote) and soon had enquiries from my neighbours (the tables are closely packed) about my vibrant dish. Now the place is always jumping, and the Mexican market small plates are the draw.

So when our good friend (and brilliant photographer) J visited from Stockholm this week, we took him to Wahaca. We began with a refreshing hibiscus flower mojito, a delicious combination of sweet and sour. We followed cocktails with a spread of small plates: a highlight was the pork pibil taco, garnished with traditional pickled pink onions, which is the image at the top of the post. Another standout was the smoked mackerel taco, with the lightness of a ceviche, balanced by the punchy flavour of mackerel. This was a new dish, and a real winner.

We also went traditional with guacamole and pork scratchings, entertainingly billed as a ‘healthier’ option. Admittedly, the pork skin was baked rather than fried, but still, let’s face it, there’s not much healthy about pork skins dipped in avocado. Delicious, yes. Healthy, not so much.

The cabbage taquitos with pasilla sauce were also new to the menu (yes, I come here quite often, what of it?) and while the vegetables got a little lost in the deep frying, the robust pasilla flavour nicely cut the richness of crispy tortilla and soft crema.

Wahaca is clearly a very successful restaurant on its own merits, but for me the real story is the slow but discernible growth of a Mexican presence on the London food scene. Having the choice of more than one Mexican place you can take an out-of-town guest to as representative of what’s great about London eating is a pretty good position to be in. Now, if I could just arrange for someone to sell those pig’s ear carnitas in Brighton…

Sometimes, I don’t have to search out deliciousness – it just comes to me all on its own. My talented friend V made her own membrillo this year, and turned up in my office with a box of ruby and garnet coloured treats. In addition to the traditional Spanish quince version, she made a deep red plum version which was, if anything, even better than the original. Membrillo is a popular snack across Spain and Latin America, often served with cheese at tapas time or for afternoon tea. We ate it with a lovely Spanish manchego and bread from our new neighbourhood delicatessen. Although, to get this shot, I actively had to stop Mr Lemur from eating it all straight out of the box.

A while ago, I wrote about using desiccated coconut instead of fresh in an Indonesian urap. I use dried coconut all the time in my South Indian cooking and I don’t feel terribly guilty as it’s everyday food and it tastes pretty darn good that way. And yet…I do have a sneaky sense of guilt when I put store-bought dry coconut into a dish where it doesn’t get toasted or cooked down into a sauce. How much brighter would this taste with fresh coconut? It was time for a coconut experiment: cook a dish I usually make with desiccated and see how much better it is with fresh. I decided on a staple of my Thai cooking, yam som-o, or pomelo spicy salad.

Both coconuts and pomelos are now regularly found in supermarkets. Only a few years ago, pomelo was impossible to find outside Southeast Asian markets (at least in the cities I’ve lived in) and even coconuts were irregular items. Now, both are commonplace, though many people have never cooked with a pomelo. It’s easy: the whole point is that the flesh is firmer than that of a grapefruit and the membranes peel off more cleanly. It’s thus less appealing as an eating fruit, but keeps its shape well in a salad.

Prepping the coconut is a bit more involved, but not difficult so long as you have either an axe or a hammer to break it open. (While very interested in hunting coconut, the cat proved sadly unhelpful in the actual grating process.) First, using a corkscrew, make two holes through the eyes on top of the coconut. Pour out the water into a bowl. Have a delicious glass of coconut water while you do the next part! Now put the coconut into a low oven for 15 minutes to help separate the flesh from the shell. Once out of the oven, put it on the floor on some newspaper and either whack it open with an axe or tap more carefully with a hammer till it breaks. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I had somebody else do this part for me. Now prise away the hard shell – it should come away quite easily. Peel off the brown skin with a vegetable peeler. Now you have just the white meat. Chop into pieces and grate in the food processor until fine and fluffy, a minute at most. You can freeze any leftovers, and one coconut yields several cups, so it’s actually not as crazy as it might seem at first.

The recipe itself is a variant of yam som-o, a Thai spicy salad I’ve read about in several very different versions. Some are rich with coconut milk and nam prik pow, which others are light, featuring grilled shrimp and lime dressing. This variant mixes chicken with pomelo and fresh coconut, and makes a hearty but very light flavoured dish. And, I must admit, the freshly grated coconut really does make all the difference.

Yam som-o, or pomelo and coconut spicy salad with chicken

  • 1 pomelo
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 a small cucumber
  • 2 handfuls watercress
  • 4 big or 8 small shallots
  • 5-6 fresh red chilies
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp dried shrimp
  • 2 handfuls fresh grated coconut
  • a handful cilantro

First, roast the chicken pieces. Once cooked and cooled, tear them apart into strips. Cut the carrot and cucumber into matchsticks. Cut the pomelo into segments. Chop the chilies into very small pieces. Put all of these in a large bowl. Slice the garlic and shallots thinly. Heat a little oil in a small frying pan and sauté each in turn until turning yellow. Add to the bowl. Grind the dried shrimp in a mini-prep until fluffy. Mix this, the coconut and the cilantro into the other ingredients.

To make the dressing, pound the sugar in a mortar and pestle until melted. Add fish sauce and about 1/4 cup warm water. Mix well and add lime juice. Taste for balance and add more of anything required.

To finish the dish, put the watercress into a large serving bowl and add the chicken and pomelo mixture. Pour over the dressing and mix well.

Serves 4

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