This trip to Paris was less meaty and heavy than previous ones, what with the not eating French food plan, but restaurant food is always a bit excessive, so I’ve been enjoying a week of Asian spicy salads to recover. There’s probably nothing I like more than an Asian salad – the mixture of cooked and raw vegetables, sometimes meats, and sparkily flavoured dressing is my idea of perfect warm weather food. This salad of green vegetables is an idea I learned from Vatcharin Bhumichitr’s great little book Vatch’s Southeast Asian Salads, and I’ve been making it in variously adapted forms for years now. Essentially, the dish involves lightly blanching an assortment of greens so that you end up with a generous bowl of vibrantly coloured vegetables, which are then dressed in a warm coconut and mint dressing. You can more or less make it at any time of year with green beans, broccoli, cabbage, whatever’s available, but it’s especially appealing in the late spring and early summer when you have asparagus and broad beans, or soon fresh peas at your disposal.

Green vegetable spicy salad with coconut dressing

  • 100g green beens
  • half a cucumber
  • 100g sugar snap peas
  • 200g asparagus
  • 300g broad beans (weight in pods)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 large green chili, chopped
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream
  • 2 tsp palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce*
  • juice of 1 lime
  • a handful of mint leaves, chopped

*For vegetarians, add salt to taste instead of fish sauce, and a tbsp of water.

Pod the broad beans, chop the asparagus, top and tail the beans. Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the vegetables each for 3-5 minutes, until just cooked. After each one is done, drain well, pat dry, and add to a bowl. Keep the broad beans separate so they can be peeled when cool. Meanwhile, julienne the cucumber.

To make the dressing, heat the oil in a small pot and gently sauté the chopped garlic till golden. Remove from the heat and add the chili, sugar, coconut cream and fish sauce. When you are ready to serve, add the lime juice and mint and mix with the salad. Serve over rice.

Serves 2-3.