Andy Ricker opens his new Pok Pok cookbook with a series of variations on papaya salad. These are the beating heart of his namesake restaurant, providing its inspiration as well as a sweet and sour bridge between the range of complex savory dishes. This particular salad, made with cucumbers instead of papaya, is a cool and refreshing twist. Even better, there's no laborious papaya-shredding involved. The flavors are mostly familiar, but occasional bites are perked up by bits of tiny dried shrimp.
Why I picked this recipe: I was curious how crisp cucumber would pair with the funky, spicy, sour flavors of papaya salad.
What worked: I loved this salad so much that I ate the entire bowl myself, tiny dried shrimp and all.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: I only have a small mortar and pestle that I usually use for grinding spices. I was able to (mostly) replicate the larger mortar set-up by pounding the first few ingredients in the small mortar, and the transferring everything to a large ceramic bowl to gently pound the cucumber and long beans. You will likely need to trek to an Asian market for the dried shrimp and naam plaa raa.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.