My spicy Thai pomelo salad (yum som-o) is super-simple to make, and is a deliciously refreshing example of the Thai flavour cycle of hot, sour, salty, and sweet.
One of my favourite dishes when we lived in Thailand was yum som-o (spicy Thai pomelo salad), a mind-blowingly delicious fusion of fruity, salty, and sour flavours, all held together with a goodly dose of chilli.
I first discovered this salad at a great vegan restaurant called Khun Churn, which was a few sois from our apartment; while traditionally served with prawns, Khun Churn’s vegan yum som-o was nothing short of amazing. For me, this pomelo salad really epitomises the union of hot, sour, salty, and sweet – the backbone of the Thai flavour balance.
Unfortunately, Khun Churn moved to the other side of town, which meant we either had to grab a songthaew or tuk-tuk, or find an alternative. Luckily for us, the latter presented itself in the form of Hong Taew Inn – a mere two minutes’ walk from our home. However, although delicious, their yum som-o was far too spicy for me, so the most I could ever manage was just one or two small spoonfuls whenever amato mio ordered it.
There was nothing for it, I had to learn to make it myself!
I don’t mind admitting that for probably the first year that we lived in Thailand, I was in complete awe of yum som-o (does that make it awe-some-o? Ha ha!) – it seemed to be so complex, and yet as it turned out, nothing could be farther from the truth. Until I started experimenting with making other Thai dishes, though, I honestly had no idea how easy it is to make this spicy salad.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering what the heck a pomelo is (som-o is Thai for pomelo, BTW), it’s like a giant, thick-skinned, grapefruit but with a far milder, and less acidic, flavour. It’s also known as pummelo, jabong, and shaddock (after a captain in the East India Company).
Spicy Thai Pomelo Salad (Vegan Yum Som-O)
- hot and sour, with hints of salty sweetness
- insanely delicious!
BTW, don’t throw away the pomelo peel – it makes a great outdoor mosquito repellent; if you’re having a barbecue, just chuck some peel on the coals, and enjoy a mossie-free nosh-up!
I hope you enjoy my vegan yum som-o as much as we do… and of course, you can make it as spicy as you like – you don’t have to be a chilli lamer like me!
Gin hai aroi na kha!
Vegan Yum Som-O (Thai Pomelo Salad)
- 1 small dried red chilli
- ½ small onion finely minced
- 1 fat clove garlic finely minced
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp tamarind concentrate
- 2 tsp vegan fish sauce
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 large shallots finely sliced
- 2 fat cloves garlic finely sliced
- 3 tbsp unsalted peanuts
- 4 tbsp desiccated coconut
- ½ pomelo (around 250g / 2 cups) - flesh only (note 1)
- ½ large red chilli minced (more if you’re not a chilli wimp like me!)
- 1 tsp fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped
Make the dressing
- Dry-roast the dried red chilli in a wok over a high heat for a couple of minutes, and set aside to cool. Chop into pieces.
- Place the onion, roasted chilli, and 1 clove garlic into a small food processor attachment, and blitz for a few seconds to make a smooth-ish paste.
- Put the paste into to a small saucepan, and add the palm sugar, lime juice, tamarind pulp, and vegan fish sauce; simmer until the sugar has dissolved. This should take around 5 mins.
- Taste - you want a balance of hot, sour, salty, sweet; if necessary, add little more sugar, lime, tamarind, or vegan fish sauce to get the right balance.
- Set aside to cool.
Make the salad
- Fry the shallots and garlic for 5 mins or so in hot oil until crispy, then set aside to cool on kitchen paper. (I do this in my wok.)
- Dry roast the coconut in a skillet for around 2 mins until it begins to turn golden-brown. Set aside to cool.
- Do the same with the peanuts. Once cool enough to handle, chop finely.
- Put the pomelo flesh into a large mixing bowl, then with your hands, gently mix with the minced fresh chilli, peanuts, coconut, half of the fried spring onion & garlic, and enough dressing to generously coat everything. You don't want to drown the salad though.
- Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped fresh coriander leaves, and the rest of the fried spring onions and garlic.
- This yum som-o doesn't store particularly well, so it's best eaten within a couple of hours of making it.
- Make sure you remove all the pith, as it will make the salad bitter if left on. The easiest way to remove both the pith and the peel is to simply cut them away with a sharp knife. Once you've segmented the pomelo, remove the membranes, and then gently tease apart the little shreds of flesh.
- I wouldn’t advise using grapefruit as it can be too tart, and very juicy. If you do use it, then the best thing to do is once you have removed the pith, and shredded it, blot it in a few layers of kitchen roll to remove some of the juice. You might also find you need to adjust the dressing to compensate for its bitterness.
- The dressing will keep for around a month if stored in an airtight jar in the 'fridge, so why not make extra for next time you make yum som-o!
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tbsp = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml