My easy 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.
What is Thai pomelo salad?
One of my favourite dishes when we lived in Thailand was yum som-o (pomelo salad). A mind-blowingly delicious fusion of fruity, salty, and sour flavours, all held together with a goodly dose of chilli.
This salad is made from shredded pomelo, toasted coconut, and chilli, with fried shallots and garlic, dressed in a hot, sour, salty, sweet sauce. And it's epic!
Did I mention how much I really love pomelo salad?! 😉
Pomelo salad in Chiang Mai
I first discovered Thai pomelo salad at a great vegan restaurant called Khun Churn, which was a few sois from our apartment. Although traditionally served with prawns, Khun Churn’s vegan yum som-o was nothing short of amazing.
For me, this pomelo salad really epitomises that union of hot, sour, salty, and sweet, which is the backbone of the Thai flavour balance.
Unfortunately, Khun Churn moved to the other side of town, so we either had to grab a songthaew or tuk-tuk, or find an alternative restaurant for our yum som-o!
Luckily for us, the latter presented itself in the form of Hong Taew Inn, which was a mere two minutes' walk from our home. However, although delicious, their pomelo salad 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-som-o? Ha ha!). I thought it must be such a complex dish but 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 pomelo salad.
Check out these Thai recipes while you're here!
What is a pomelo?
In case you’re wondering what the heck a pomelo is, it’s a giant, thick-skinned, citrus fruit. It's similar to a grapefruit but with a far milder, sweeter, and less acidic, flavour. It's less juicy, too, which makes it perfect for this salad.
Pomelo (sometimes spelled pummelo) is the largest member of the citrus family, and is the ancestor of the grapefruit. It's native to Southeast Asia.
Its name comes from the Dutch, pompelmoes. In German, it's Pampelmuse, and in French, pamplemousse.
(I really like the name, pamplemousse... it makes me think of a cute elk-like creature!)
In Barbados, pomelo is called shaddock or shattuck, after Captain Philip Chaddock of the East India Company, who introduced it to the island in the 17th century. It's also called shaddock in Jamaica.
Hawaiians know it as jabong, and in India and Sri Lanka, it's called jambola. And in Thailand? Som-o!
How to cut a pomelo
The easiest way to prepare a pomelo is to cut through the skin, and then peel it away from the flesh.
You can then pull the segments apart, and cut away the pith with a sharp knife. If you leave the pith, it'll make the salad bitter.
You also want to remove the membrane covering each segment. Once you've done that, it's really easy to tease apart the little shreds of pomelo flesh.
Natural mosquito repellent!
BTW, don’t throw away the pomelo peel because it makes a great outdoor mosquito repellent. If you’re having a barbecue, just chuck some peel on the coals, and enjoy a mosquito-free meal!
Thai pomelo salad recipe
You can make yum som-o with just a handful of ingredients. If you regularly make Thai or other Southeast Asian food, you probably already have most of what you need.
- red chilli (dried and fresh)
- onion, garlic, and shallots
- lime juice
- tamarind concentrate or pulp
- vegan fish sauce
- shredded coconut
- plus a little coriander (cilantro) and coconut oil
How to make Thai pomelo salad
- You need to make the yum som-o dressing first, so dry-roast the dried red chilli, and then blend it with some onion and garlic to make a paste.
- Put this paste into to a small span, along with sugar, lime juice, tamarind, and vegan fish sauce, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
- You'll want to taste it, and make sure the flavours are balanced. If you need to, you can add a little more sweet, sour or saltiness at this point.
- Set the dressing aside to cool down while you make the salad.
- Dry-roast the shredded coconut for a couple of minutes, and then do the same with the peanuts.
- Fry the shallots and some more garlic in a little oil, until crispy, and then drain on kitchen paper.
- Prepare your pomelo, and put the flesh into a large bowl. Next, add some minced fresh red chilli, roasted peanuts, some of the garlic and shallots, and enough dressing to just about coat everything. Get your hands in, and gently mix everything together!
- Serve straight away, topped with some torn coriander leaf, and the remaining shallots and garlic.
Notes and Tips
- 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.
- If you don't have any of my vegan fish sauce, there are now several commercial brands on the market. Or look for nuoc mam chay in Asian grocery stores. (Chay = vegan.)
- The yum som-o dressing will keep for around a month if stored in an airtight jar in the 'fridge, and is great on other salads too!
Is pomelo salad gluten-fee?
If you use my vegan fish sauce, and make it with regular soy sauce, then no, this pomelo salad will not be gluten-free. If you use tamari, however, it will be.
Check the miso you use, too because some are not gluten-free. It depends which grain is used.
Is pomelo salad soy-free?
Again, if you're using my vegan fish sauce, it does contain soy from the soy sauce and miso, so no, this yum som-o won't be soy-free. However, there is nothing to stop you making vegan fish sauce with liquid coconut aminos, and using a gluten-free miso paste. These are usually made from chickpeas, adzuki beans, or rice.
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!
Easy Thai Pomelo Salad (yum som-o)
- 1 small dried red chilli
- ½ small onion , finely minced
- 1 clove garlic , finely minced
- 2 tablespoon palm sugar
- 2 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
- 2 teaspoon vegan fish sauce
- 4 tablespoon desiccated coconut
- 3 tablespoon unsalted peanuts
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 3 large shallots , finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic , finely sliced
- ½ pomelo , flesh only (around 250g / 2 cups)
- ½ large red chilli , minced (more if you’re not a chilli wimp like me!)
- 1 teaspoon fresh coriander (cilantro) , chopped
- Food processor
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
- Dry roast the coconut 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.
- Fry the shallots and garlic for 5 mins or so in hot oil until crispy, then set aside to cool on kitchen paper.
- 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 shallot & 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 shallot and garlic.
- This yum som-o doesn't store particularly well, so it's best eaten within a couple of hours of making it.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tablespoon = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml
Fantastic recipe - We enjoy Pomelo Salad when on Koh Phayam and always crave it on our return home. So thrilled Pomelo is becoming more readily available in the UK ,
Thanks for giving us the opportunity to try it at home
Just a heads up .,,, Spring onion isn't mentioned in the ingredients - but is in the instructions . Thankfully I had some in the fridge !
So glad you enjoyed it, Flo - thank you for letting me know. I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. Thank you also for the heads-up about the spring onion; you're absolutely right, it wasn't in the ingredients list... because in a later update I changed it to shallots (and clearly neglected to change the instructions - what a numpty)! Anyway, it works perfectly well with spring onions, too - as you discovered! 😉 xx
Is pomelo the same as ugly fruit? I've had that and it's really good, but not sure if it's the same thing. Either way, your salad sounds super scrumptious.
It's not quite the same, Choclette - pomelo is definitely more of a grapefruit taste, without the hurty tartness! I think an ugli fruit is a cross between a tangerine and pomelo. It would work just as well in this salad though! xx
This is an excellent recipe. I aced it on the first try. I made that last night for entertaining. I will make it again tonight ! The flavors blend very well and they all just explode in your mouth.
I am so, so happy you enjoyed this, Selena - it's a corker, isn't it? Thank you for taking the time to reach out, I really appreciate it! xx
Sooooo as I thought of yum som o I too dreamt of Khun Churn!!!! Them were the days. Loved the place!!
So tonight I made this!! In fact I spent most the day.... two kids to add to the mix
Lived in CNX nearly 8 years ago. A good 5 years they were.
This recipe took me back in a wow memory la e kind of way.
Thank you ?
Oh, you are so, so welcome, Lucy!
Khun Churn was such a fantastic place, wasn't it? Lunchtime buffets that went on for hours, evening meals so long that all the bars were closed by the time you left there. Damn, that food was sooooo good. I'm now craving their het laab - maybe I'll blog something similar soon! xx
PS How funny that now we're both back in Blighty, we've chosen to live by the sea!
Kirsty Hijacked By Twins
Yum, yum, yum! This dish sounds so full of flavour and I adore the vibrant colours from the chilli and the fresh coriander. Thank you for sharing with #CookBlogShare x
Thank you! It's such a simple dish but absolutely bursting with flavour. TBH, I could eat it every day and never tire of it! xx
Eb Gargano | Easy Peasy Foodie
This looks and sounds so lovely - I've never eaten a pomelo (or at least not knowingly!), but I feel the need to seek one out to try now you've sold them to me so convincingly!! Not sure they are easy to come by in deepest darkest Sussex (people look at me strangely when I ask for crazy outlandish things like lemongrass!!) but I reckon they might have one or two in Brighton!! Eb x
I have a sneaking suspicion that you'd really enjoy yum som-o, Eb! I was so surprised to see them in Romanian supermarkets, so you never know, you may find them in Sussex! Mind you, in saying that, I used to visit friends who lived just outside Durham, and the shops there didn't even sell parsley. That was a bit of a shocker! Ha ha! xx
I love the name of this salad - Its just perfect for your blog and it sounds like it tastes amazing too! I could do with some really good blow-your-head-off food every once in a while, especially when the flavours are just so good too!
It is, isn't it? And every time I type it, I type yumsome instead! Ha ha!
Blow your head off food is great for getting rid of colds... not that I've actually had one for about six years! xx
That looks and sound delicious. I haven't had a pomelo in years I must look out for one. Thank you for linking to #CookBlogShare
Weirdly, they seem to be really popular in this part of Romania - I must find out what people do with them here. It's strange to see one of the lesser-know SE Asian fruits in all the supermarkets! xx