There was a time when raw mangoes were a seasonal affair, one would wait for them to hit the market early April to make chutneys, dals and more. But these days I see them in the market throughout the year. Though it makes me wonder a bit about what are we doing to the crops and their cycles, a part of me is happy, since it means a year-long supply of my favorite salad — Som Tum Mamuang or the Thai Raw Mango Salad.
Like any Thai recipe, this has a burst of flavours: fruity, hot, sweet, sour and salty. Also the balance of textures in this one is amazing too, the crunch of peanuts, a bit of palm sugar, the fried onions (it’s optional, a friend introduced me to fried onions in this salad and I just can’t get over it, skip it if you don’t want indulgence).
It’s a fairly simple salad if you keep a few things in mind:
1\. The freshness of the raw mango: the peeled and sliced raw mango could turn bitter so it’s better to prep the raw mango just before you are assembling and serving the salad. I personally like the slightly ripe raw mango for this salad. The Indian variety we use in regular cooking can be a little too tart for it. The Bengaluru mango works pretty decently.
3\. Fish sauce: I think fish sauce is crucial for the perfect flavour of this salad. I know that it makes the salad inherently non-vegetarian and if you want a veg version of it you can use a light soy instead along with a drop of lemon. There is nothing like the fish sauce though.
4\. I like to use shrimps, both fresh and dried in my salad, but you could replace them with any protein of choice. Tofu, chicken and fish all work equally well and at some point of time I have indeed used each of them.