If you like Thai food for its bright flavors, you will find this dish positively dazzling. Thais make it with pomelo, grapefruit’s thick-skinned, misshapen, and sweeter cousin. Pomelo is quite dry, and fairly easy to pull apart by hand. To prepare this salad using the juicier grapefruit, use two forks to gently tease grapefruit sections into smaller chunks. Look for unsweetened shredded coconut in natural food stores, or buy the sweetened shredded coconut available in the supermarket baking section. A little extra sweetness is welcome, and the sugar makes the coconut brown beautifully and fast. To prepare yum some-oh ahead of time, hold the toasted coconut and dried shrimp or peanuts aside until just before serving time, so that they will keep their crunch. Serve with spoons and small lettuce leaf cups for wrapping around the salad and enjoying bite by bite.
Yield: Serves 4
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups bite-sized chunks peeled, sectioned pomelo or grapefruit
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot green chilies or dried red chili flakes
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint or cilantro
Leaves of Boston lettuce or bibb lettuce for accompaniment
Toast the shredded coconut in a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, tossing often, until most of it turns a rich, soft brown. Turn out onto a saucer to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar and stir well to dissolve sugar and form a smooth sauce. Add the pomelo, toasted coconut, dried shrimp (if using), shallots, chilies, and mint, and toss gently to combine everything well.
Transfer to a serving platter with lettuce leaves on the side, and serve at room temperature.