Luke Nguyen's Green Tomato Salad
In an amazing and colourful episode of Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong on SBS recently, Luke visited Inle Lake in the Shan State of Myanmar, where entire villages and kilometres of tomato farms float upon the lake.
Row upon row of tomatoes are grown like 'just like in a vineyard' across some 7,000 acres. The lake water assists in irrigation and the tomatoes are floated en masse to a local wholesale market nearby.
In episode six of Greater Mekong, Luke helped to cart (and lug) sacks of tomatoes to the wholesale market and then created the local speciality, a simple green tomato salad, which immediately sparked my interest. I have been given Luke's kind blessing to share my interpretation of the recipe with you. Thanks, Luke. You are a legend!
Green tomatoes are abundant in gardens across Australia at this time of the year. It's the tail end of the growing season and, without ongoing sunshine and warm Summer days, tomatoes simply don't have the opportunity to ripen. But, what to do with them that doesn't involve composting? How about coating slices of them in flour and spices and frying them, Southern style? Nice, but no thanks. Or use them in a CWA-style green tomato chutney or jam? Not for my Peter's taste buds, I'm afraid.
'Don't shy away from using green tomatoes, they are absolutely fantastic,' Luke says. Green tomatoes have a sweet, tangy flavour and 'really crunchy' texture. According to Luke, this makes them perfect for this salad, and he says they are also great to barbecue or grill.
Before I launch into the recipe, a word of advice from chef Luke: 'Hey Bizzy Lizzy, put a little less dried chili in the green tomato salad if you find it too spicy. The Burmese like it extra hot!'!
GREEN TOMATO SALAD
5 green tomatoes
3 red Asian shallots
Handful of coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds ^
2 teaspoons ground peanuts, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (note Luke's advice)
3 teaspoons garlic oil *
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon fried garlic or shallots, to garnish
1 small red chilli sliced, for garnish
Finely slice the shallots and soak them in a bowl of water for ten minutes, then drain them (this will mellow the strong flavour). Grind the black sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle. Lightly toast the peanuts. Make the garlic oil, see below.
Cut the tomatoes in half and cut them into thin slices and place them into a bowl. Add the shallots, coriander, ground black sesame seeds, toasted peanuts, chilli flakes, garlic oil and salt. Mix well. Garnish with the fried garlic, sliced red chilli and extra coriander to serve. This quantity serves 4-6.
* To make a small amount of garlic oil, simply heat a few tablespoons of peanut or vegetable oil in a wok. Toss in two or three finely chopped cloves of garlic and cook until the garlic is golden. Strain and reserve the oil. The fried garlic can be used as a garnish. See Mark Jensen's recipe here.
^ Don't toast the sesame seeds, as they will become bitter.
This salad tastes superb, we really loved it. I served it with thinly sliced eye fillet of beef, wok tossed in peanut oil with a little garlic. I kept the beef plain, as I wanted the flavours in the salad to shine through. And so they did!
What's your favourite Asian salad? And have you enjoyed a meal at The Red Lantern restaurant?
And an Autumn Garden Update
We are well into Autumn (Fall) in Canberra now and the mornings have that wonderful crispness to them, followed by warm and sunny afternoons. Perfect for the kitchen garden, as some of our larger tomatoes have managed to ripen. The strawberries are all but finished, after providing us with a bountiful supply of sweet fruit all season. Similarly, the tomatoes are drawing to an end and I have pulled up most of the self-sown cherry and grape tomatoes, which not only sprung up from nowhere, but kept us supplied with fresh tomatoes in a range of sizes all Summer. The broccolini is now flourishing and we have already harvested the first of it. The womboks are also doing well. Our main enemies here have been snails and cabbage moths. The chillies are abundant and we are starting to freeze them. The self sown pumpkin is beginning to flower. And the celery is growing well. This will be put to good use in soups and stews. The little Romeo ball-like carrots have all been harvested and it's time to plant more. And the two newly planted fig trees in wine barrels are settling in nicely. Life in the kitchen garden is good!
How's your kitchen garden coming along? What have you planted this season? And what are you most looking forward to harvesting?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.