Spicy Thai-Style Pomelo, Green Bean, and Zucchini Salad Recipe

Bittersweet pomelo in a spicy dressing with snappy green beans and zucchini. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Thai pomelos tend to be drier and less sweet than their American-available counterparts, but that shouldn't stop you from using them in a Thai-inspired salad nonetheless. Heck, even bitter grapefruit would make a great addition to this salad that combines fiery heat, bitterness, and sweetness in perfect balance.

Why this recipe works

  • Pounding the garlic and chilies in a mortar and pestle releases much more flavor than any other method we've tested.
  • A good balance of bitter, sweet, hot, and sour flavors keeps each bite exciting.

Note: Thai red pepper flakes can be found in Asian markets. Alternatively, use a combination of 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon powdered ancho chili.

I strongly recommend using a good mortar and pestle for the dressing. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, dressing can be made by combining garlic, pepper flakes, fresh chilies, brown sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice in a blender and blending until a rough purée is formed, scraping down sides as necessary.

If pomelos are unavailable, a standard white (not ruby red or sweet) grapefruit can be used in its place.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 3 to 4 servings

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  • Kosher salt
  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Thai red pepper flakes (more or less to taste, see note)
  • 1 small green Thai chili or 1/2 small Serrano chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown or palm sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime (more or less to taste)
  • 12 ounces trimmed green or long beans, cut into 1-inch segments
  • 1 small zucchini, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch disks
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 pomelo, rind and pith removed, segments cut into 1-inch suprèmes
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, Combine garlic, pepper flakes, and Thai chilies in a mortar and pestle and pound into a fine paste (see note). Add sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice, and pound until the sugar is dissolved. Taste dressing and add more sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, or pepper flakes to taste. It should be strongly spicy, sweet, salty, and acidic.

  2. Blanch beans in boiling water until bright green but still extremely crisp, about 1 minute. Drain and run under cold water to chill. Dry well on paper towels or in a salad spinner. Combine beans, zucchini, shallot, pomelo, mint, and dressing in a large bowl and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Special equipment

Mortar and pestle

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