Unique Thai Salad discvered in tiny rice village

I could never imagine it grew so tall! I’d only seen pictures of farmers bent over planting small plugs in patties of water. Much to my surprise, these beautiful emerald green stalks stood over 6 feet tall. The fields shimmered in the late day sun. This tiny rice village in the north part of Thailand, named Pai is where we discovered an unusual Thai salad.

Kathy by Rice Field in the village of Pai

My wife, Kathy, and I were visiting Thailand in 1998 for a three week honeymoon. The tail end of our adventure found us here in the village of Pai, near the border of Myanmar. There is a delightful little restaurant named Ruan Ban Pai.

One of the items on the menu was labeled spicy cashew nut salad. We had found spicy cashew nuts earlier on our trip in the southern part of the country. There, the dish was little more than creamy cashew nuts fried in spicy oil. The dish that arrived at our table, however, was something completely different. Here was a celebration of color, shape and texture. The dish was spiced with fresh jalapeno and a salted lime dressing. Crisp, roasted cashew nuts topped the salad, giving it its name.

We became infatuated with spicy cashew nut salad. Kathy loved it so much, that she would eat it for breakfast each day. As we were doing with other dishes we felt we could replicate, we began to dissect the salad each time it appeared before us. We began noticing not only the ingredients, but the size and shape of each cut, and the ratio of each vegetable to the others. Thai dressings, with their subtle balance of flavors, (salty, sour, sweet, and spicy) can be a bit of a mystery. One thing is for sure, they always leave you craving more.

Spicy Cashew Nut Salad - Easy, fast, and healthy too!

Interestingly, I have never come across this salad even by another name, in any other restaurant or cookbook. Re-creating it here at home has been a worthwhile endeavor. It gets rave reviews every time!

Here then, is a recipe for Spicy Cashew Nut Salad. Be sure your knife is sharp; success lies in thinly slicing the vegetables so that no flavor over powers the other and the pieces are easy to chew.

(Makes 2 servings)

1       Med Carrot Sliced on diagonal into 1” pieces
1/2  Medium Onion Cut into Wedges
1/2  Green or Red Bell Pepper Sliced into 2 “ strips
1       small Tomato Cut into thin Wedges
1-2   Jalapeno Pepper seeded and Chopped fine
1/4  Cup Fresh Cilantro Coarsely Chopped
1        Full Green Leaf Lettuce leaf per person
1/2   Cup Cashew Nuts, Toasted

Dressing:  Mix all ingredients together and adjust to a pleasing balance of sour, salty, and spicy.
2 Tbs. Lime Juice
2 Tbs. Fish Sauce
1 tsp. Palm sugar (chopped fine)
1-2 Crushed Birds Eye Chilies (optional)

1) Combine Carrot, Onion, & Bell Pepper in a large mixing bowl and toss gently.

2 Add Tomato & and Jalapeno and toss with dressing.

3) Add in fresh cilantro. Serve salad on a lettuce leaf; top with roasted cashews.

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