A freshly-made salad that glows and glistens with salubrious ingredients is possibly one of the healthiest and tastiest dishes that you can quickly put together to satiate your wondering appetite today. Salads are often easy to make (and eat) and can exist in as many incarnations as your imagination allows. From larb to tum mark hoong – Laotians really enjoy their salad dishes, which are made from fresh local ingredients and are often full of zip, zing and alakazam!
Another popular Lao salad dish is the milder counterpart called ‘yum salad’ which may be translated as ‘salad of lettuce’ or ‘salad of salad’.1
Lao yum salad is essentially a delicious mix of salad vegetables (and herbs), sliced cooked egg white, peanuts and a savoury, sweet and sour egg-yolk based dressing. All of the ingredients in the recipe work well together and each play an important role in the overall flavour and character of the dish.
One of my favourite ingredients in the salad is the watercress which gives the salad a lovely peppery accent. If you can’t find watercress, you can recreate the piquant flavour with other peppery vegetables, for example, radish or rocket. The pepperiness of the watercress is balanced with the sweetness of the iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes and cucumber, the mildness of the hard-boiled egg white, the nuttiness of the peanuts, the crunchiness of the fried garlic chips, and the deliciousness of the zesty egg-yolk dressing.
This recipe is an adaptation of a yum salad recipe that I learnt from my sister many years ago. It’s one of dad’s favourite salad dishes and he prefers this over tum som. Dad’s also a huge fan of larb (preferably raw), although most Lao people (if not all) have an affinity with larb. Dad’s other favourite salad dish is a ‘warm’ watercress salad which is a bed of fresh watercress topped with steaming hot quickly seared, stir-fried sliced beef. It’s delicious and I’ll share a similar recipe for it on a later date.
Traditionally, yum salad is made from readily available ingredients. A lot of the ingredients normally used are what Lao cooks and households would be able to find growing in their own backyard garden or from the local fresh produce markets.2
In this recipe, the radicchio and radish are optional, although I do love the colour and flavour of both of these ingredients and recommend that you try them. Rocket, young celery tips, chicory, and curly endive also make good substitutes in the salad. If you have an allergy to peanuts, by all means omit it and the recipe will still work great. Although, I do think the peanuts enhance the salad really well with its delicious flavour and texture. Macadamia nuts would also make a rapturous alternative in this recipe!
Lao yum salad is a delicious, healthy, mild and easy to make salad that requires minimum fuss and ingredients. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try. It is perfect to have as a light ‘treat my body as a temple’ meal (in which case, do be extra sparing of the infused garlic oil and chips) or to be enjoyed as part of a main meal. The combination of the fresh ingredients and the delicious dressing make this Lao yum salad totally yummy (couldn’t help myself), and a joy to eat and share. Sern saab everybody! :)
- 4 eggs (hard boiled)
- 1 bunch of watercress
- ½ head of iceberg lettuce
- ½ head of radicchio
- 1 Lebanese cucumber
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 radishes
- 1 coriander
- 1 spring onion
- 1 Asian shallot
- ½ cup of peanuts
- 1 Tablespoon of garlic, ginger, shallot oil (including fried chips)
- 1 Tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon of sugar
- 1 lime
- salt and pepper
- Boil the eggs over medium heat until cooked.
- When the eggs are cooked, let them cool down and then peel and slice them in half length-ways. Remove egg yolk from 3 eggs and place in a mixing bowl. Slice the remaining egg white and other egg into segments and put aside.
- To make the dressing, mash up the egg yolk in the mixing bowl with a fork. Add the fish sauce, sugar, and salt & pepper. Squeeze in the lime juice. Mix together well. Adjust the flavour to suit your palate. What you’re aiming for is a delicious blend of eggy, savoury, sweet, sour and a little zippy!
- Prepare the vegetables and herbs. Wash and cut the watercress into about 10 cm lengths. Remove discoloured leaves, tough stems or roots if necessary. Wash and cut the iceberg lettuce and radicchio into about 5 cm segments. Wash, peel and thinly slice the cucumber into discs. Wash and thinly slice the tomatoes into discs. Wash and thinly slice the radish into discs. Wash, discard the root and cut the coriander into about 5 cm lengths. Wash, discard the root and thinly slice the spring onion and Asian shallot.
- On two large serving plates, neatly arrange the iceberg lettuce and radicchio. Neatly arrange the watercress on top.
- Then, neatly arrange the sliced tomatoes, cucumber, radish, egg, spring onion, Asian shallot and coriander on top.
- Give the salad dressing a stir and then drizzle it all over the salad.
- Randomly sprinkle the peanuts on top.
- Finally, drizzle the garlic, ginger, shallot oil (including the fried chips) all over the salad. Serve the salad immediately with chopsticks or cutlery.
- Mix the salad and dressing together before eating. This yum salad is delicious as a healthy light meal or served to complement a main meal. Sern saab! :)
- In Lao, the word ‘yum’ means ‘salad’ or ‘ salad dish’, or ‘to make a salad dish’. And the word ‘salad’ or ‘salat’, or more specifically ‘puck salad’ or ‘puck salat’ (puck meaning ‘vegetable’) means ‘lettuce’. Thus, ‘yum salad’ or ‘yum salat’ or ‘yum puck salad’ or ‘yum puck salat’ translates to ‘salad of lettuce’. However, if you write ‘yum salad’, this can also mean ‘salad salad’ or ‘salad of salad’ (that is, ‘salad of yum’). I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to confuse you. I just wanted to share with you what I know about the meaning of the name of this recipe/salad dish. I don’t know what the history of the word ‘salad’, ‘salat’, ‘yum’ or ‘yam’ (alternative English spelling) is but I’m sure it’s interesting. If you know, please feel free to share it with us. Thanks in advance. [↩]
- Watercress might be difficult for you to find. I finally found some for sale at a local specialty fruit and veg store and also at Asian greengrocers in Cabramatta, NSW. [↩]