I used to think that the best of the best of the Thai pomelos come from the specific area called Nakhon Chai Si, a western district in Nakhon Pathom known chiefly for their abundant fruit orchards. Pomelos from that area are called ‘Som O Nakhon Chaisri,’ they are GI-protected and, yes, can fetch much higher prices than pomelos from other parts of Thailand.
But shopping online during the pandemic exposed me to more varieties of Thai pomelos. Being physically distant from our parents, my sister often ordered them a 10-pomelo set from Pichit to shore up their fruit supply. With thick and spongy peels, these pomelos can keep for weeks, if not months. And the longer you keep your pomelos, at least in the Pichit’s case, at room temperature, allowing them to ‘forget their trees,’ the sweeter they become. I found that to be true when I ordered that 10-pomelo set myself not too long ago and spent weeks enjoying them at my own pace. Unlike Nakhon Chai Si’s pomelos, Pichit’s pomelos are a little cheaper, selling now at just THB50 per fruit. Online trade’s norm is that one can claim subpar fruits received by filming for evidence of what you have got in your delivery. And I found that practice to be an utter delight. No need to fret over bad fruits. No need to fret over not knowing how to choose things. 😀
In the repertoire of classic Thai dishes, meaning a set of mandatory Thai dishes visitors coming over to our country must try, is the delicious Yum Som O – or the Thai pomelo salads which can be served as an appetizer or a snack. Personally though, I kind of dread this salad. Take a look at the classic dish and you can imagine the lengthy hassle that goes with it. A myriad of ingredients – from the finely-julienned to the freshly-toasted – includes not only the typical Thai salad components, but also far-flung things like toasted shredded coconut, coconut milk, toasted red chilies, and so on…
But with a lot of pomelos in hand, I became uncharacteristically adamant. I wanted to try making a pomelo salad. And I wanted to make it like I wanted to eat it. With clear, non-obstructed tastes of the fruit which, for me, is the main event. To me, a pomelo salad should allow the fruit to shine, and not be smothered with the intensity of other ingredients. So, I started peeling the fruits, tinkering my own version of it, and here it is. A very naked Yum Som O, if you will, with just key essential ingredients a Thai Yum (salad), and nothing else.
The result? It depends. If you like clean-tasting foods, the dishes that do not assault your tastebuds at every turn, you are likely to find this version delicious and refreshing. Also, if you are someone, like me, who thinks, well, you don’t want to be bothered, or held back, by the notion of following the ‘recipes,’ then, go for it. Give it a try. The dish is yours, so make it how you like it. I’m here only as an idea provider.
A Very Naked Yum Som-O (Simple + Easy Thai Pomelo Salad)
- A fruit of Thai pomelo, peeled, segmented, and broken down into chunky bites
- One hand-pulled poached chicken breast
- Toasted walnut (or any other types of nuts or if you have toasted shredded coconut, use them)
- Chopped fresh chillies, shallots to taste
- Fresh lime juice + soy sauce to taste
- Bai Cha Plu or ‘Piper sarmentosum’ for an edible garnish
I happened to make ‘Tom Kha Gai’ (ต้มข่าไก่) or the chicken soup with galangal, another classic Thai dish, before making this dish, so my chicken breasts were poached in the coconut milk used to make the broth of the aforementioned soup. The sweetness and fragrance of coconut milk-poached chicken breasts were subtle, but enough to make a difference. So, try poaching your chicken breasts in coconut milk if you feel a bit fancy. 😀
First I put in the key Thai salad ingredients: fresh chillies (try mixing the green and the red together for an aesthetic reason), shallots (sliced as thin as you can), lime, and soy sauce together in a bowl. Mix everything together and taste it to your liking. The key is to balance the main composing flavours first and then tweak them to your liking. Remember also to taste the pomelo beforehand so you know whether it is sweet or sour so you can adjust this dressing accordingly.
Into the dressing go the pulled chicken breast and pomelo. Lightly toss everything together. Adjust the taste again and lastly add the toasted walnut. Serve with Bai Cha Plu if you have them in your backyard.
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