Did you do a double-take when you saw my Thai Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans? It had some exotic ingredients: Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, shallots, tamarind, etc.
I know, I thought this was going to be the year of shopping at the Big Box Grocers, too, but it turns out I found a local ethnic grocer, Welcome, that meets the majority of my needs, including all my Thai ingredients, and falls within my budget.
It ain’t no Sunny’s though. Sunny’s has bountiful fresh produce at low prices. Even some of the discounted produce is great quality. Welcome, however, is like a transplanted Chinatown grocer. Some great prices but the quality is not always the best. I never know what I will find on their shelves. Sometimes it can be 4 bunches of leeks for $1, or 2 HUGE bunches of Swiss for $1, or 10 limes for $1 (this one seems to be a perpetual sale), sometimes advertised, other times not, especially if the produce is priced to sell pronto (if you know what I mean). Then I’ll come back a few weeks later to discover they have no Swiss chard, or kale or collards at all. The produce is random. Kind of.
Like most Asian grocers, they seem to have a regular collection of well priced mushrooms (shiitake, oyster and Portobello), broccoli, citrus, cilantro, coconuts, peeled garlic and some Asian ingredients. Grape tomatoes can be hit or miss. Their cauliflower has never looked good. But, they have Kaffir lime leaves and galangal! They have green mangoes! And when I spotted some green papaya, I leaped at the chance to try something new.
Itching to go try something authentic with the green papaya, I made the Green Papaya Salad from Taste of the East. I quickly realized that if I had to shred the papaya and carrot by hand, this could take a while, so I whipped out my food processor to help. I added long beans to the recipe and bruised them with the blade, which seemed to be in more traditional recipes. The rest of the dressing was tangy from the Kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, fresh garlic and chile flakes. The nuts offered a nice textural contrast in the tangle of noodly vegetables. Adjust the dressing to suit your own tastes. Trust me that the salad will have a great mixture of hot, sour, salty and sweet. Refreshing during these hot summer days.
And yes, as a fore-warning, I think I will be cooking with mushrooms a lot more. I should capitalize on Welcome’s good produce, right?
Thai Green Papaya Salad (Vegan Som Tam)
Adapted from Taste of the East
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 Kaffir lime leaves, de-stemmed
1 tbsp agave syrup or your choice of sweetener
4 tbsp lime juice (2 limes)
1 tsp Bragg’s or low-sodium soy sauce or fish sauce
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup green beans, chopped into 2-cm pieces (I used long beans or snake beans which are more traditional)
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, divided
1.5 lbs green papaya, peeled and shredded (you want a super green and super firm papaya)
1 cup carrot, shredded (2 carrots)
1/2 cup cashews or peanuts, toasted and chopped
1. In a food processor fitted with its S-blade, drop in the garlic cloves until minced. Add cilantro, lime leaves, agave, lime juice, soy sauce, chile flakes and salt and process until smooth. Try your hardest to mash those lime leaves! Drop in the green beans and half the tomatoes and pulse until they are lightly bruised.
2. Remove the dressing and place it in a large bowl. Replace the food processor blade with the one for shredding if you haven’t already shredded your papaya and carrot. Shred your carrot and papaya. Add to your dressing. Add the remaining tomatoes (quartered) and mix well. Adjust salt and citrus. Top with nuts just prior to serving.
Serves 4 as a starter salad.