One of the things I learned about myself while traveling through Thailand is that I am a lot more squeamish than I thought I was. We planned our trip quite a while in advance so I had a good number of months to contemplate my food attitude on this trip. I knew full well that fish sauce and shrimp paste were going to be in much of what I ate, as surely as salt and pepper would be here. Over my nearly 2o years as a vegetarian that is something I would generally be quite picky about at home, but what could I do about it in a place like Thailand but just accept it would be there. I also didn’t want to limit my experience of the place through food by worrying about whether there was something in it that I normally go out of my way not to eat, so I decided I would adopt a ‘just don’t ask’ policy, which in the end I did, more or less, stick to. *But*. I did, several times, take just one or two bites of something and feel overwhelmed by a ‘fishy’ taste and not be able to continue eating at all. Prior to the trip I had been examining my vegetarian in general, wondering if it continued to be the right way for me to eat. That’s a big discussion that I’ll leave for another time and another place, but suffice it to say I thought long and hard about it and in the end I’ve accepted that I am who I am: a squeamish vegetarian.
I love the classic Thai spicy green papaya salad. I shared one with Paul at the start of our trip, bought from a cart on the side of a dusty road in Koh Chang. We got one at a market in Koh Samui which I had one bite of and deemed too fishy. We also learned to make it in our vegetarian cooking class in Chiang Mai. I knew we’d never be able to find a green papaya once we got home, but our instructor said we could substitute cucumber. My thoughts immediately turned to kohlrabi instead, which is something we almost always include in our salads at home. And hey, ripe papayas, which are rich in carotenoids, are waaaaaaay more nutritious than unripe, so eat your fruit ripe and give this kohlrabi version a try!
Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family. It has a moist texture, and a flavour similar to broccoli stalks. When young, kohlrabi is tender enough to eat raw, which is how we most often eat it. Try a thick slice sprinkled with salt – that’s always our treat to munch on while we’re making salads.
Traditionally a shreddie peeler thingy (pictured above – pretty sure that’s not the actual term for it) is used to shred the papaya and carrot for this salad. We picked one up in Thailand and it’s fun to use, but for this salad I also used the fine shredder on my mandoline, which was super efficient for shredding the peeled kohlrabi. Probably most of you don’t have a shreddie peeler thingy at home, so you could use a mandoline, a box grater, the shredder on your food processor, or you could chop the veggies into thin little matchsticks with a nice sharp knife.
In Thailand this salad comes together with a mortar and pestle. We brought a nice one home, so I made the kohlrabi salad the way I learned in Thai cooking class. The veggies and spicy peppers and sauces and peanuts all go in, and bash bash, bang bang, you have a salad. Of course tossing everything together in a bowl is perfectly acceptable if you don’t have a mortar big enough to hold all this stuff.
This salad is bright and spicy. Peanuts add a nice crunch and a bit of protein. None of the ingredients are hard to find, in fact, many you may have as pantry staples. The chopping does take a bit of time, but if you use a shredder for the carrot and kohlrabi, or do your chopping in advance, this salad can still come together quite quickly.
Spicy Kohlrabi Salad Recipe:
Adapted from May Kaidee’s
Depending on how spicy you like things, you may want to be conservativce with the chilies here. I used red and green Spanish chilies, which are definitely not as hot as the chilies we had in Thailand, and the amounts, half of each, are scaled up accordingly. Paul likes most things to be burning hot and he added some dried chilies we brought back with us to his salad.
Serves 2-4 as a side.
1 small tomatoe, finely chopped
1/2 red chili pepper, seeded and deveined, finely diced
1/2 green chili pepper, seeded and deveined, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finey chopped
3 Tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp raw sugar
1 medium large kohlrabi, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
In large motar or large bowl add all ingredients except the carrot and kohlrabi. Give it a bit of a bash around with your pestle or a large wooden spoon. Add shredded vegetables and toss everything together so it is well coated. Serve with extra peanuts sprinkled on top.
Know what you’re eating: what’s good about this? Kohlrabi is rich in potassium and vitamin C. Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, and the antioxidant carotenoid lycopene (good for your prostates, fellas!). Peanuts, consumed in moderation, are a good source of energy and protein. They are a good source of vitamin E, and are rich in several B vitamin complexes.
Do ahead: This salad should be eaten the same day as it is made as the vegetables will start to wilt.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012