Melissa Clark’s Southeast Asian Tomato Salad
Marty Martindale

I tossed this together one night to serve with the Thai-style ground turkey dish. It’s a departure from my usual tomato salad, which is comprised of little more than carved up tomatoes, torn basil, salt, and olive oil. Daniel and I eat this simple salad almost every night in tomato season since it takes about 20 seconds to assemble and has a juicy purity of tomato flavor that I can’t seem to get enough of this time of year.

But with the fish sauce, limes, scallions, and jalapenos for the turkey already sitting out within arms’ reach, I decided to try something new.

It turned out to be insanely good, very tangy and a nice break from the more everyday, if tasty, tomato salads I usually make. I’ve since added it to our summer tomato rotation and find myself whipping it up even if I have to hunt in the cupboard for the fish sauce and sort through the vegetable bin for a jalapeno. It’s worth the chase every time. Here’s the recipe which serves 4.

 Southeast Asian Tomato Salad

About 2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce such as nam pla or nuoc mam, or to taste

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 fat garlic clove, minced (or use 2 small ones)

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped

3 large or 4 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai or regular basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, scallion, garlic, and jalapeno. (If you think your fish sauce is very salty, start with 1 teaspoon; you can add more at the end).

2. Arrange the tomato slices on a plate. Spoon the dressing over the tomatoes. Let stand 10 minutes to allow the tomatoes time to release their juices. Sprinkle with basil and cilantro; serve.

What Else?

– Cucumbers, that’s what else. This salad is even better with some sliced cucumbers added to the mix. I didn’t have any when I first made this, but if I had, I would have replaced one of the tomatoes with a nice big Kirby cucumber, sliced thin.

– If you have access to a tender lemongrass stalk, use it here in place of the scallion, or alongside it.

– Different brands of fish sauce (otherwise known as nam pla or nuoc mam) have different degrees of saltiness. It’s less apparent when used in cooking, but when drizzled raw on salads you need to be careful. Start with a little and add more as you go. I used 2 teaspoons but trust your own palate.

– If you’d rather go for a bare-bones tomato salad, leave out all the ingredients except the tomatoes, salt, and basil. Add pepper to taste and toss well with a few drops of good olive oil. That’s all you need.

A Dish By Another Name

For a Southeast Asian Tomato Noodle Salad double all the ingredients except for the tomatoes, which you should dice instead of slice. Toss with about 6 ounces of cooked rice noodles, then adjust the seasonings to taste. It will probably need a bit more fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar.

Clark’s most recent book, Cook This Now, a personal collection of seasonally driven, inventive comfort food, came out in October 2011, published by Hyperion.

Read more in the Times Dining section column, A Good Appetite.

All told, Clark has written 32 other cookbooks, many of them in collaboration with some of New York’s most celebrated chefs including Daniel Boulud (Braise), David Bouley (East of Paris), Claudia Fleming (The Last Course), and Bruce and Eric Bromberg (The Blue Ribbon). A book of dessert recipes, The Perfect Finish, written with White House pastry chef Bill Yosses, came out in June 2010. Her collaboration with chef Peter Berley, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, received both a James Beard award and Julia Child Cookbook award in 2000.

Visit Melissa Clark’s website:

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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