Pomelo Salad

Monday, December 15, 2014

About two weeks ago, I was wandering around the produce section of the grocery store in awe, as usual. I’m still not over the abundance of choice we get here. When I was fresh off the boat back in June, it was so easy to be critical of the size of everything, including the sky, and, apparently, the produce section at the grocery store. The first few times I mowed Mary Ellen’s lawn, I’d curse its enormity, and the invisible property line between her plot and her neighbor’s. Who needs this much grass anyway?! I’d mutter, while thinking of cancer and exhaust fumes and how crotchety I was becoming. Little by little, daily life chipped away at that, as it must, and I became a little more fun to have around. If you treat undesirable tasks as a chance to be mindful–mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, or segmenting a pomelo, say–it’s amazing how things change. I say this not because I’m the most mindful person on the planet, not the millionth most probably, but because I’ve learned to become mindful out of self-preservation. Without it, I’d be a ringer for Melvin Udall.

pomelo-salad-1

Pink pomelos are in season in the States now, and they are so much worth seeking. Have you seen them around? They look like oversized grapefruits, but they’ve got much thicker skin and sweeter flesh. Protected by thick and bitter pith, the pomelo becomes edible only when peeled and segmented, so it takes a little effort to prepare. A sharp knife with a non-serated blade makes it easier, but otherwise there’s no quick way to go about it. Segmenting citrus is a lot like butchering meat. You’ve got to slice through the tough sinewy bits with a delicate but steady hand to get to the gold, and it is so worth it once you do.

I didn’t know what I would make when I brought home that pomelo those few weeks ago, and it sat on the counter until last Saturday before I turned to Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking. Tony and Niki lent the book to me when I’d just come home from Korea and a couple of weeks in Vietnam. I went back to the store for more pomelos just for this salad, which is the perfect example of the textural wealth of Vietnamese food. Bitter greens offset by flecks of mint, punchy citrus, crispy sweet shallots, and sweet, sour, hot vinaigrette. A good starter salad, this would be great before a hot bowl of pho. In fact, that’s exactly how we had it for dinner last Saturday (Tony made the pho, Niki made the cocktails, and I brought the salad). I urge you to try this at home while pomelos are in season. I’ll try to work on a recipe for pho in the meantime. Have a super week.

Pomelo Salad from Vietnamese Home Cooking (makes enough for 6 side salads)
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon shallot oil* (or other neutral tasting oil)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon minced Thai chili
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large pomelos
6 cups frisée (I couldn’t find frisée, so I used a combination of radicchio, romaine, and endive)
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup chopped spearmint
fried shallots

*to make shallot oil, heat 1 cup avocado oil (or your pick of high-heat oil) in a saucepan. When oil is up to temp (about 275 degrees F) add 1 cup sliced shallots and stir until golden brown (about 8 minutes). Remove shallots and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Strain the oil to remove bits of shallot left behind. The oil will keep for several weeks in the fridge. The shallots should be eaten the same day.

First, segment the pomelos. Using a sharp knife and a cutting board, cut both ends off one pomelo so that it can stand upright. Then, stand the pomelo on the board and slice downward to remove the skin and outer pith. If you don’t reach the flesh on the first try, just restart at the top and slice downward again. The skin might be thicker than you first expect. Then, holding the fruit in your non-dominant hand, cut along both sides of each segment. Look carefully for thin lines of pith to find each segment–some lines will be paper thin. You’ll know you’ve cut away the pith when you’ve got pieces of clear, jewel-hued fruit in your hand. Don’t worry if the segments fall apart because you’re going to cut them into bite-sized pieces. Repeat with each pomelo, and discard all the skin and pith.

Second, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, shallot oil, fish sauce, sugar, chile, salt, and 1 tablespoon water until the sugar dissolves.

 

Third, combine the frisée, red onion, mint, and pomelo chunks. Pour the dressing over it all and toss gently to coat. Drop fried shallots over the top and serve.

#cookwithmusic: Work Song by Hozier

  • Lan | morestomach

    fyi: this might make you awe harder, or make the awe turn to eye rolling, but pre-fried shallots is sold in asian markets. i never fry my own shallots, i buy it and keep it in my pantry for easy garnishment of vietnamese salads.

    i fall into the category of Dislikes Grapefruit, Is Ok with Pomelo But Never Buys It Because of Said Dislike of Grapefruit. that needs to be remedied.

    • Jacqui

      ! My roommate requested a standby inventory of fried shallots for snacking. She’s going to jump at this news. I guess they’re pretty great if you keep them! Thanks for the tip, Lan. And yes, give pomelos a try. The pink ones. xx

  • Nikoline

    My mouth is watering thinking about this salad. So refreshing. Thanks for sharing it with us!