Combining exotic flavours in salty tamarind dressing served with prawns, crunchy green mango, grilled pineapple and cucumber, this Thai Green Mango Salad recipe is super refreshing. Great starter to get the taste buds moving.
Why I Love Thai Green Mango Salad and Salty Tamarind Dressing
This is my take on the fragrant Rojak dish that I love. Popular in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, rojak is crunchy fruit and vegetables dish covered with a sticky thick salty dressing.
Combining all the exotic flavours in rojak but giving it a new form as a salty tamarind dressing and served with prawns, crunchy green mango, grilled pineapple and cucumber, this salad is very appetizing.
To many people, the shrimp paste used in the tamarind dressing can be very pungent but once combined well with the tamarind pulp and palm sugar, the concoction is so delicious – sweet, sour and salty all together.
It literally is an explosion of flavours in one mouth full. My kids loved it and could not stop dipping the crunchy fruit into it.
What Does Thai Green Mango Taste Like?
Thai green mangoes are essentially a young, unripe mango popular in many Thai and Vietnamese salads and dishes.
Typically the fruit is hard to touch with a crunchy flesh and a sour taste. It can be compared to a crisp, tart granny smith apple but I feel it is more delicious and aromatic.
I would be quite happy to slice my green mangoes and then just eat it like that! And if you need an accompaniment – a dry Thai chilli and salt dip. So good!
For the mangoes used in this savoury mango fruit salad, I have chosen a Thai green variety that is tart in flavour, with a crunchy flesh and longer in shape compared to the usual round yellow mangoes such as Kensington Pride or Alphonso.
There is a Thai variety that remains green even when ripe but is sweet and not sour. Be sure to grab the sour version for this green mango salad.
What is Tamarind?
Having grown up with Southeast Asian dishes, tamarind is a very familiar flavour to me.
This fruit grown on tall trees, comes in a small curvy pod with a brittle shell that encases a sticky sour pulp. The mature fruit is normally what you see used in cooking as it is sweeter and less acidic.
The fruity sour taste adds punch to soups, sauces, dressings, stir-fries and curries. As a child, I adored sweetened dried tamarind fruit snacks. Just like super sour lollies my kids crave today, I could not get enough of the uber sweet tang.
However, in researching the origins of tamarind I had no idea how widely it is used in other cuisines. You will find refreshing cold tamarind juice in South Sudan. Sweet tamarind chutneys are popular in Pakistan. It is also a key ingredient in many South Indian curries.
Whilst in the Middle East, tamarind pulp is used to flavour savoury stews. And did you know there is tamarind extract in Worcestershire sauce? I didn’t! I also discovered the tamarind tree is native to Africa. So good to be learning everyday.
What is Tamarind Paste?
Tamarind paste is simply the paste form of the pulp. It is more concentrated and certainly more convenient than having to squeeze the pulp to extract the juice.
What is Shrimp Paste?
Originating from South East Asia, shrimp paste is made of tiny shrimp that is salted, dried under sunlight for a couple of days before they are pounded and then left to ferment over a period of time.
It has a pungent aroma that is essential in many curries, soup noodles, sauces and sambal chilli. Not to everyone’s taste (most likely due to the strong smell) but once you know how to use it well, it adds so much depth and savoury notes.
My kids enjoy the taste especially when I use it as a marinade for deep fried chicken ribs.
Shrimp paste does come in many forms. Ranging from salty pale liquid “harm ha” sauce used often in Cantonese stir fries to a thick pungent molasses-like shrimp paste used in Malaysian and Indonesian cooking and of course the hardened dark brown blocks of belacan essential in spicy Malaysian sambal.
The shrimp paste in this recipe is the thick molasses-like version so we can mix it well in the tamarind dressing plus adding in delicious salty flavours.
How to Make Green Thai Mango Salad and Salty Tamarind Dressing
How to Cut Pineapple and Grill
Hmmm, why the trouble of grilling the pineapple when fresh pineapple can be so sweet and delicious? Because the caramelisation of sugars does wonders for the tastebuds.
Sweet grilled pineapple slices in this recipe gives balance to the saltiness of the tamarind dressing and tartness of the green mango. A perfect threesome that you don’t want to mess with.
Ok, so I am not going to pretend I know how to cut pineapple well. Took me a while to remove all the “eyes” but here goes.
Slice off the top and bottom of the pineapple. Stand the pineapple up on its bottom. Then carefully trim the skin off by slicing from top to bottom by following the curve of the pineapple.
You don’t want to cut straight down and taking too much flesh off. Continue until you have removed all the skin.
Then cut the pineapple in half lengthwise from top to bottom. Place the pineapple cut side down. It’s a little more effort but worth it to remove the round brown eyes. Using a small paring knife, make shallow diagonal cuts (like a diamond) and carefully cut out all the eyes.
Pineapples have a tough core in the middle of the fruit that also needs to be removed.
Slice each half of the pineapple into quarters and stand the pineapple up on its bottom. You will notice in the middle of the quarter there are some fibres running lengthwise. This is the core to be removed. Cut this part out by slicing from top to bottom of pineapple. Repeat with all remaining quarters.
Then place pineapple back down on cut side and slice into 1cm thick pieces.
Spray grill pan with olive oil and prepare for medium-high heat. Place pineapple slices on pan and grill for 30-45 seconds on each side or until you get a good char. Remove grilled pineapple slices and set aside for assembling.
Prepare the Green Mango Salad
Green mangoes are not always in season therefore you can use other crunchy fruit to substitute. Green apples or papaya are good options as they are also tart in flavour.
Peel the mango and thinly slice white flesh lengthwise into bite size pieces until you reach the stone.
Wash and slice cucumber into 0.5cm thick slices.
De-shell cooked prawns but leaving head on. (Tip: you can keep prawn shells / heads in the freezer to use for prawn / seafood stock later on).
How to Make the Salty Tamarind Dressing
All the ingredients in the dressing can be bought from most Asian grocery stores. I’ve used tamarind pulp in this recipe but you can also purchase tamarind puree from major supermarkets. Saves you from soaking the pulp.
To start the tamarind dressing, soak tamarind pulp in a little warm water until soft. Then strain it in a large bowl and remove the pips.
In the tamarind pulp, add shrimp paste and palm sugar and whisk well until you have a thick smooth consistency. Then add lime juice and peanut oil to thin the dressing. Mix well.
Add crushed chilli to taste. If you prefer it more spicy, add extra chilli.
How to Assemble the Mushroom Salad
Using a large rectangular serving dish, place the grilled pineapple slices first, then layer cucumber slices and finally finish with the green mango slices.
Drizzle salty tamarind dressing over salad and sprinkle with a generous amount of crushed peanuts.
For a more complete meal, serve green mango salad with cooked prawns. The delicate prawn meat goes well with the salty and sour flavours of the salad.
Place extra tamarind dressing in a bowl, add a little crushed chilli (half a teaspoon depending on your taste) and sprinkle crushed peanuts. Serve this bowl on the side so friends can use it as a dipping sauce for crunchy fruit and prawns.
This savoury mango fruit salad sure makes for a great starter to get taste buds moving. Plus you can easily prepare all the elements earlier and just assemble when you need to serve.
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Thai Green Mango Salad with Salty Tamarind Dressing
- 1 pineapple, small
- 1 Thai green mango , firm, unripe
- 2 cucumber, Lebanese
- ½ kg prawns, cooked
- 3 tbsp peanuts, divided (2 tbsp for salad, 1 tbsp for side dressing)
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Trim and cut pineapple into 1cm slices.
- Spray grill pan with olive oil and prepare for medium-high heat.
- Place pineapple slices on pan and grill for 30-45 seconds on each side or until you get a good char.
- Peel the mango and thinly slice white flesh lengthwise into bite size pieces until you reach the stone.
- Wash and slice cucumber into 0.5cm thick slices.
- De-shell cooked prawns. Leave heads on.
- Soak tamarind pulp in a little warm water until soft. Then strain it in a large bowl and remove the pips.
- In the tamarind pulp, add shrimp paste and palm sugar and whisk well until you have a thick smooth consistency.
- Add lime juice and peanut oil to thin the dressing. Mix well.
- Add ¾ of the chopped chilli. Less if you don't want it so spicy.
- Layer the salad starting with grilled pineapple slices first, then next is cucumber slices and finally finish with the green mango slices.
- Drizzle salty tamarind dressing over salad and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of crushed peanuts.
- Place extra tamarind dressing in a bowl, add remaining ¼ chopped chilli and sprinkle remainder of crushed peanuts. Serve this bowl on the side for extra dipping sauce.
- Substitute green mangoes with Granny Smith apple if not in season.
- For convenience, you can purchase tamarind paste/puree in a jar at grocery stores. This saves from soaking the pulp. However, may need to adjust the quantity for taste.
- Tamarind dressing can keep in the fridge airtight container for a few days.
- You can substitute palm sugar with dark brown sugar.
- If you prefer not to use fresh chilli, you can use 2 tsp crushed chilli paste such as sambal oelek.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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