Recently I've been craving the salty-spicy-sweet combination of flavors so often found in the cuisines of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. The salads of lightly dressed fruits and vegetables are refreshing and the occasional burst of heat draws me out of my malaise. Having ordered in box after box of pork with cold vermicelli, I decided it was time to try to bring some of the flavors of Southeast Asia home.
The result is this menu, which is inspired by Southeast Asian cuisine but also tailored to the season. This is what I feel like eating in the summer: fresh produce, simply cooked shrimp, and gorgeous, ripe mango that needs no adulteration at all.
Pineapple Red Pepper and Cucumber Salad
This salad is all about contrasts. In one bite you'll find pineapple, sweet and juicy with a citrus kick, then crisp, clean cucumbers, and a bit of cooling mint. Red peppers add crunch where tomatoes add a mellow sweetness. The dressing continues the theme of salty-sweet: Fish and soy sauces are tempered with sugar and lime juice. I always double the recipe to save some for lunch the next day.
Forbidden Rice with Shrimp
The base for this dish is black rice, though I prefer to go by its more alluring moniker "Forbidden rice," so called because it was originally reserved for the emperor of China. Now that anyone can eat this delicious grain, I'd encourage you to seek it out. It's got a deep, nutty flavor and is a good source of iron to boot.
Here, black rice is dressed with garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and chili peppers. A bit of sugar and lime juice finishes off the sauce. To make this substantial enough for a main course, top the rice with shrimp.
(Note: I actually serve about ten shrimp per person, but three shrimp made a prettier picture.)
Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango
I'm a huge fan of sticky rice. Something about the glutinous, soft texture is immensely comforting and fun to eat. In this dish, the rice soaks up coconut milk that's been lightly sweetened with turbinado sugar. Without getting soggy, the rice retains the perfume of coconut and becomes the perfect sticky sweet base for slices of golden ripe mango.
All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.