There are two kinds of Thai dishes, says Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame: the ones you eat with rice and the ones you eat without.
We'd like to add a third--the ones we want to eat all the damn time. We're looking at you yam samun phrai (see the recipe).
Ricker and his pal, and co-author of the Pok Pok cookbook ($35), J.J. Goode, showed us how it's done. Toss matchstick-thin crunchy vegetables (carrots, white turmeric, onion) with finely chopped fresh herbs (lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, betel leaf, sawtooth, Thai basil) and ground pork cooked with dried shrimp.
Oh, and did we mention peanuts and fried shallots? They're in there, too. And fish sauce dressing spiked with Key lime juice and coconut milk.
Traditionally, the salad falls into the "eaten with rice" category, so it's not tame. Ricker explains, "Those dishes are quite often relatively strong in flavor because the rice is the foil."
In other words, the bright, crisp, salty salad is exactly what we want to be eating when the thermostat creeps up.
"While I can't say it's a dish that's traditionally eaten this season, from a western standpoint it does evoke summertime eating," Ricker says. "It's not greasy, it's light, a little spicy, with lots of aromatics."
Now he's speaking our language.
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