Thai salad

Mediterranean courgettes and tomatoes take surprisingly well to the Thai papaya salad treatment.

In April, I was lucky enough to learn how to make the classic Thai som tam salad at the century-old Mandarin Oriental cookery school in Bangkok.

From the first bite, it hit me from all angles. It was cold and crunchy, but also hot, sour, salty and sweet, which was exactly perfect for the 38-degree heat. It’s not particularly easy to find raw papaya here, so this recipe uses courgettes and tomatoes instead – a taste of Bangkok, but via an English allotment. Serve cold, with an even colder Chang beer.

Thai-style tomato and courgette salad with peanut crumbs
The longer this salad sits, the more juice the courgettes will release, so serve with tongs, then spoon over the juices and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs when serving.

Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 4 as a side or 2 for lunch

For the dressing
4 birds’ eye chillies
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3½ tbsp soy sauce
3 limes, juiced
Rapeseed oil
1½ tsp palm sugar

For the salad
500g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 courgettes (400g), julienned
1 large handful Thai basil leaves, shredded
40g roasted peanuts, crushed
40g dry breadcrumbs
¼ tsp salt

First make the dressing. Roughly chop three of the chillies and put them in a blender with the garlic, soy, lime juice, two tablespoons of oil and the sugar, and whizz until well blended.

Put the tomato halves in a large bowl, then lightly squash them with a hand. Pour over the dressing and set aside. Put the julienned courgettes on top of the tomatoes, but don’t mix them in just yet, and sprinkle over the shredded basil.

Now for the peanut breadcrumbs. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. While it’s warming up, very finely chop the remaining chilli. When the oil is hot, add the chilli, peanuts, breadcrumbs and salt, stir for around four minutes, until golden brown, then take off the heat.

To assemble the salad, mix the courgettes and basil into the tomatoes, then tip out on to a lipped platter. Scatter the breadcrumbs on top at the last minute, or wait until people have helped themselves and encourage them to sprinkle a small mountain over their own serving.

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