So much to say!
Holy shit, this was incredibly delicious. It had everything I’ve ever wanted in a salad and more. And it is plenty for a meal. It was time consuming, and I think I have some ways to cut down on time plus a few other tips for next time.
1. I didn’t actually use green papaya, hence the quotes. I used about half a head of green cabbage and one medium-large shredded zucchini instead of green papaya. It’s hard to find and often very expensive.
2. Flavored fish sauce: there was a little too much sugar here. I’d try cutting it to 1/4 cup next time and see how that goes.
3. Pickles – I love these on their own (I used smitten kitchen’s recipe, but it’s pretty much the same as the one recommended in the salad recipe), but I didn’t think they added a ton to the salad. It’s an extra step that requires little active time but it means you have to plan ahead to let the veggies marinate in the brine.
4. Tofu – This added more to the salad than the pickles, but it’s also time consuming too, so in a pinch I’d omit it. But it is delicious and surprisingly keeps pretty well. The tofu gets softens and turns into that sort of spongy tofu that is often served at hot pot.
5. Do make the fried shallots and shallot oil. I think it adds a lot.
Step by step:
1. Prepare flavored fish sauce to give sugar time to dissolve. Reduce sugar to 1/4 cup.
1a. Chop tofu and let dry on paper towels to prepare for frying.
2. Shred zucchini, chop cabbage, slice cucumber, chop cilantro and mint, chop 1 shallot. Add veggies (minus shallot) to a big bowl.
3. Shallot oil and fried shallots – heat 1/2-2/3 cup oil in heavy bottomed pan until a shallot piece instantly bubbles when thrown in. REDUCE the heat to medium, then add the rest of the shallot. Watch carefully so you don’t burn the shallot, it can get really gross that way. Then, when shallot is deep golden brown, strain oil into a jar and let fried shallot buts cool on paper towels.
3a. Fry tofu if you want.
4. Add flavored fish sauce and oil to veggies, toss.
5. Crush peanuts.
6. Add tofu, peanuts, and fried shallots only in the amount you’re going to eat to reduce sogginess factor if you’re going to have leftovers.