It's hard to believe that it's been almost 3 weeks already since we arrived in Bangkok! The stress of packing up our apartment in Paris, the European winter and the farewell parties all seem like a distant memory now, as we have been busy settling down and starting a new life here. Stockings and sweaters have been replaced by sandals and sundresses, our decent-sized Parisian apartment in working-class Chateau Rouge by a huge one in a high-rise in one of the nicest parts of Bangkok. Between work and getting settled here, we haven't really had time to really start exploring the city as of yet but will definitely be doing so soon. For the time being though, we have been thoroughly occupied by the enjoyable yet arduous task of buying stuff for our apartment!
A trip to Chatuchak is at least a half-day, if not all-day, endeavor. You've got to be prepared, wearing comfortable and lightweight clothing and staying hydrated (luckily vendors selling bottled water, juice and soda as well as all manner of fresh fruit shakes and smoothies, iced coffees and cut-up fruit served over ice abound). It's best also to have specific goals in terms of what you want to buy and to know where you're going. Maps of the market are everywhere, but it's still easy to get lost!
As we always do, we punctuated yesterday's trip to Chatuchak with a lunch break, as the market has some amazing food. Somewhere amongst the furniture and household decor in Section 8, we stumbled onto a little cafe serving Isaan-style food. Isaan is Thailand's poorest region, in the Northeast bordering Laos and Cambodia, but is also the source for some of the country's best and most well-known food. Salads (yam) are an outstanding feature of Isaan cuisine, and this is the home of well-known favorites such as som tam (green papaya salad) and larb (a salad of minced pork or chicken...can be made with tofu as well). Yesterday I tried the lesser-known green mango salad (yam mamuang, yam meaning salad and mamuang meaning mango) and let me tell you...it was pure bliss. Sour, sweet, spicy...just phenomenal...so much so that I ordered a second plate! And then had to restrain myself to keep from licking the plate...yes, it was that good!
I knew that I had to create this dish at home as soon as possible...particularly as it requires minimal ingredients and little preparation. Luckily just like in India, green mangoes are in abundance here in Thailand and are eaten in all forms...in yam such as this one, in drinks or just cut up and served with some sugar and chili flakes. Outside of Asia, you can find them in Asian or Indian shops. Go for the greenest, hardest, rawest mango that you can find for this dish...the tartness really makes it special. You can totally personalize this salad and make it yours - the salad at the market had red onions, I used shallots instead...go for whichever you prefer. And you can play around with the proportion of lime juice to sugar to fish sauce/soy sauce to get the balance of sour-sweet-salty that you like as well, as you could also add more chili if you want it really spicy (just one chili with the seeds left in was plenty spicy though!).The chopped coriander is optional too.
Try this salad as soon as you can get your hands on a green mango and then keep it in your repertoire for hot summer nights when you're looking for something light, healthy, cool and delicious!
YAM MAMUANG (THAI GREEN MANGO SALAD)
Serves 2-3 as a starter or side dish
1 big green mango
2-3 small shallots, finely sliced
3 small limes or 1-2 big limes
2-3 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar, to taste
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla) or light soy sauce
1 (or more) Thai red chili, chopped (and deseeded if you want less heat)
2 heaping tablespoons roasted peanuts
2-3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped (optional)
1. Using a good peeler, peel your mango. Slice (as you would a regular mango) and chop into little matchstick-sized pieces. Another alternative would be to grate the mango, but I went for matchsticks as I had in my salad at the market yesterday.
2. Set aside the mango pieces and the sliced shallots.
3. In a large bowl or a mortar (the mortar being the typical Thai way), squeeze the juice out of the limes. Remove any seeds which may have fallen in with a small spoon.
4. Add the palm sugar/brown sugar and the fish sauce/soy sauce, the red chili and the peanuts. Mix with a spoon and crush the chili and peanuts with a pestle.
5. Add in the mango, shallots and coriander and mix everything well.
6. Transfer to a serving plate or bowl, pouring any of the dressing that remains in your mortar/mixing bowl on top. Garnish with additional crushed peanuts, if desired.