Fresh Thai herbs and aromatics balanced with roast duck, pomelo and cucumber to create a zesty salad with punchy umami flavours. A no cook salad that only requires cutting and tearing, our Thai Pomelo Salad is deliciously robust.
What Are Essential Thai Ingredients?
What I love the most about Thai cuisine is the heavenly balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy in every dish. The fragrant and unique flavours can be attributed to the many different herbs and spices used in their cooking. It’s amazing how the fresh Thai herbs and aromates can create depth and complex flavours in a simple dish.
Recreating Thai flavours at home can be quite easy with the help of some key ingredients. I always keep the essentials in my pantry or freezer and have the popular Thai herbs growing in my herb garden. If you don’t have an herb garden going, they are easy enough to pick up at local Asian food stores. Here is a quick checklist for you to do the same!
- Fish Sauce – must have ingredient for all Southeast Asian cooking. There are definitely good ones and ones of lesser quality. Salt content and aroma will vary depending on the fermentation process. I prefer less salty but stronger in flavour.
- Chilli – we use to have fresh chilli growing in the garden but have been unsuccessful in the last couple of years. We now buy them locally and freeze them so I always have them readily available.
- Lemongrass – we have both stems of lemongrass and crushed lemongrass in the freezer ready to go. Probably best fresh but to keep it longer, we store them in freezer.
- Lime – our lime tree has yet to bear fruit so we purchase them at the local green grocer and we always have them available in our fruit bowl.
- Thai basil – I am growing them in our herb garden but they can easily be purchased from the supermarket. Other than salads, my kids love thai basil in stir fries as it creates a distinctive aroma and taste.
- Mint – growing in the herb garden but can easily be purchased from the supermarket too. We use mint frequently in many different types of salads. Don’t you just love the smell of fresh mint?
- Coriander – growing in the herb garden too! But this is a common herb and can be found in supermarkets. Coriander, or cilantro, is a staple in many different cuisines including Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, and South American.
- Palm Sugar – available at supermarket or local Asian grocery store. Staple in making Thai style dressings and desserts.
Coconut milk – easy to find in any supermarket and an essential ingredient for Thai curries and desserts.
- Kaffir Lime leaves – We wished we had a kaffir lime tree! Not for the fruit but for the leaves. Aromatic and essential in Thai cooking. I buy them fresh and store in freezer.
What is the Difference Between Pomelo and Grapefruit?
Both pomelo and grapefruit are citrus fruits that are high in vitamin C and have a distinctly sweet/sour and slightly bitter taste. However, their similarities stop there.
Pomelo, originating from Southeast Asia, is the largest citrus fruit weighing in between 2-4 pounds. It is slightly pear-shaped with a thick greenish-yellow skin. They are often mistaken for large grapefruit but are quite different inside.
The flesh is semi-transparent and the colour will vary depending on the variety – could be pale lime, yellow, peachy or dark pink.
It can be difficult to tell what colour the flesh unless the grocer has labelled it. (And this is from personal experience because I thought I bought a dark pink pomelo but went home with a yellow one!)
After removing the thick spongy skin and white papery membrane, pomelos are great to eat by themselves as they are have a honey sweetness which is very refreshing. It is also a popular fruit used in Southeast Asian desserts and salads.
Grapefruit on the other hand is smaller in size and round in shape. Their skin is smooth and coloured bright yellow or red yellow depending on the variety.
Ruby grapefruit will have a rose pink flesh whilst the more common grapefruit will have pale yellow flesh. Grapefruits are considered more tart than pomelos and definitely more juicy. Very popular fruit at breakfast time as it is packed with nutrients and health benefits. Ruby is the perfect word to describe the colour of this fruit and they look so stunning in salads such as my Radicchio, Baby Gem, Orange and Ruby Grapefruit Salad.
Grapefruit is high in water content, filled with immunity-boosting antioxidants and can help control blood sugar levels as it is low GI. And do you know where grapefruit gets its name? Because it hangs in bunches – just like grapes!
Why I Love Thai Pomelo Salad with Roast Duck
No cooking involved. I repeat no cooking involved. But you say, there is roast duck?
Yup, there is roast duck but I have chosen to buy a roast duck rather than making it at home.
Growing up my parents did not attempt to make Chinese roast duck at home and the reason is simple – the experts do it so much better! To get the authentic Cantonese flavours and famous crispy skin, the cooking process is long and laborious.
You need to air-dry the duck to get a crispy skin which would be a minimum of 4 hours (but preferably overnight) before roasting. Plus add time for marinating, glazing and roasting the duck! Even for keen home cooks they generally do not bother.
Grabbing a roast duck at your local Chinese barbeque restaurant is the way to go.
I can assure you I’m not alone. Amy does the same too and if you love a good roast duck salad, check out her Roast Duck, Caramelised Grapefruit and Wombok Salad.
And because of this, I can make Thai Pomelo Salad mid-week as a meal in itself. Shred the roast duck, chop up the salad and mix with a zesty coriander and lime dressing. So easy.
How to Make Thai Pomelo Salad with Roast Duck
How to Prepare the Roast Duck
Don’t be afraid of walking into one of those Chinese restaurants you see with all the roast ducks hanging in the window. That is where you are going to find the delicious roast duck for this recipe. Head to the counter and order a whole duck but remember to ask them not to cut it up and that you would like it whole.
Start to tear the flesh off the duck. Keep the skin but remove any excessive fatty pieces. You can tear up the skin into smaller pieces and add with your duck meat. Some parts can get tricky to remove all the meat but be sure to get as much meat as you can.
Discard the bones if you wish. We normally keep and freeze the bones for stock later.
Set aside shredded duck meat for assembly.
How to Cut the Pomelo
For a more colourful salad, I would have preferred to use dark pink pomelo in this salad but I was only able to find yellow pomelo which tasted fantastic too. Pomelo has a very thick skin so you would need a knife to help remove it.
Turn the pomelo on its side and trim the top off.
Using a sharp knife, score vertically into the skin from top to bottom into the skin. Cut deep enough so you can start removing the skin but not into the flesh. Repeat 6 times around the fruit.
Using your thumb, dig into the skin at the top and pull the skin back to remove it. Discard skin.
Break the fruit in half and you will start seeing the segments where you can peel away the pith and take the flesh out. If the membrane is tricky to peel off, carefully use a sharp knife and nick an opening so you can peel the membrane back. For this recipe, we don’t need whole slices intact so it’s ok if the flesh falls apart.
Once you have all the flesh, pull apart any larger slices into smaller bite pieces. Set aside for assembly.
Prepare Thai Pomelo Salad
Wash and peel cucumber. Cut the cucumber lengthwise in half and then in half again. With each quarter, trim the seeds off. Then slice diagonally about 1-1.5cm apart.
Wash the Thai herbs – basil, mint and coriander.
Remove basil and mint leaves from stalk and set aside for assembly.
Trim the coriander roots and roughly chop leaves.
Trim the base of the lemongrass and then thinly slice into rounds (need only about 4-5 cm)
For kaffir lime leaves, roll them together tightly and thinly slice.
Thinly slice spring onion and red shallot and set aside for assembly.
Thinly slice 2 bird’s eye chillies and set aside. If you prefer less heat, I would suggest to use a long chilli that is less spicy than bird’s eye chillies. Long chillies provide a more subtle fresh heat and adds a good pop of colour too!
How to Make Chilli and Lime Dressing
A versatile zesty dressing that can be used in various meals. Try it with green mangoes and cabbage slaw or as a dipping sauce for Asian styled barbeque pork.
The lime helps cuts through fatty meats which works perfectly with the roast duck. Makes my mouth water as I am thinking about it! Can definitely adjust the heat according to your taste. Add or remove chillies as you please. For me, I prefer more chilli!
Place palm sugar (or brown sugar if you can’t find palm sugar) and hot water into a small bowl and stir until palm sugar is dissolved. Mix in fish sauce and lime juice. Taste dressing and adjust as you like. If you prefer a little more salt, add fish sauce or prefer more zing, squeeze another half a lime.
Grate ginger and garlic into dressing and mix well.
How to Assemble the Salad
Place all ingredients except for the Thai herbs into a large mixing bowl and toss together. Dress salad with Chilli and Lime Dressing and mix again. Make sure everything is well coated with dressing.
Scatter chopped coriander and tear basil and mint leaves into bowl. Mix together and then tumble into a mountain of deliciousness on serving platter.
This salad will hold dressed for a little while but if you are not planning to serve immediately, probably best not to dress until serving. Keep extra chillies and lime wedges on the side for guests to help themselves.
A whole duck in this salad will be enough to serve 4 people as a main course. If using for a side dish, this would serve more people. Otherwise can reduce to half a duck.
What I love about the Thai Pomelo Salad is the freshness of the pomelo and cucumber plus all the various aromatic Thai herbs which are accentuated with salty umami roast duck flavours. Give your taste buds a good wake up call!
More Asian Salad Recipes:
- Wombok, Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw
- Rainbow Vermicelli Salad with Soy Dressing
- Vegan Soba Noodle Salad with Yuzu Dressing
- Gochujang Chicken Salad with Noodles and Tofu
- Tofu Salad with Snake Beans and Peanut Butter Dressing
Easy Salad Dressing Recipes:
Thai Pomelo Salad with Roast Duck
- 1 roast duck
- 1 pomelo
- 1 cucumber, continental
- ⅓ cup Thai basil
- ⅓ cup mint
- ⅓ cup coriander
- 3 cm lemongrass, finely sliced
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 sprig spring onion
- 1 shallot
- 2 chillies, bird's eye
- Purchase whole roast duck from Chinese barbeque restaurant. Do not get them to cut it. Shred and remove duck meat. Keep skin but trim any fatty pieces.
- Cut the top of pomelo and using a sharp knife, score vertically into the skin from top to bottom into the skin. Cut deep enough so you can start removing the skin but not into the flesh. Repeat 6 times around the fruit. Using your thumb, dig into the skin at the top and pull the skin back to remove it. Discard skin. Break the fruit in half and you will start seeing the segments where you can peel away the pith and take the flesh out. Once you have all the flesh, pull apart any larger slices into smaller bite pieces. Set aside for assembly.
- Wash and peel cucumber. Cut the cucumber lengthwise in half and then in half again. With each quarter, trim the seeds off. Then slice diagonally about 1-1.5cm apart.
- Remove basil and mint leaves from stalk and set aside for assembly.
- Trim the coriander roots and roughly chop leaves.
- Trim the base of the lemongrass and then thinly slice into rounds (need only about 4-5cm)
- For kaffir lime leaves, roll them together tightly and thinly slice.
- Thinly slice spring onion and red shallot and set aside for assembly.
- Thinly slice 2 bird’s eye chillies and set aside.
- Place palm sugar and hot water into a small mixing bowl and stir until palm sugar is dissolved.
- Mix in fish sauce and lime juice. Taste dressing and adjust as you like.
- Grate ginger and garlic into dressing and mix well.
- Using a large mixing bowl, place all ingredients except for the Thai herbs and toss together.
- Dress salad with Chilli and Lime Dressing and mix again.
- Scatter chopped coriander and tear basil and mint leaves into bowl.
- Mix together and then tumble into a mountain of deliciousness on serving platter.
- A whole duck in this salad will be enough to serve 4 people as a main course. If creating a side dish, this would serve at least 6 people. Otherwise can reduce to half a duck for a side dish for 4 people.
- If you prefer less heat, use a long chilli that is less spicy than bird’s eye chillies. Long chillies provide a more subtle fresh heat and adds a good pop of colour.
- Brown sugar will work as a substitute for palm sugar for Chilli and Lime Dressing.
- Serve with extra chillies and wedges of lime on the side so guests can add extra according to their tastes.