Thai Herb Salad with Fried Cashews
This is the season for wishing you grew a garden or for reaping the harvest if you do. With produce flourishing, it’s hard to make decisions about what to put in your salad. Which is why, sometimes, you have to choose everything, or at least all the herbs.
This salad, inspired by the flavors of Thailand, is deceptively simple. Lettuce, cilantro, mint, Thai basil, and thinly sliced onion are the main ingredients; fried cashews and garlic slices add bulk, character, and texture. The salad really comes together when you pour on the hot dressing, its balanced flavors contributing heat, umami, and tanginess. Its heat wilts the vegetables just enough that they’re easy to wield with your fork.
Within that simplicity, though, is room for the season’s abundance. Find the freshest lettuce, so crisp that the warm dressing won’t reduce it to soup. Pile in the herbs, honestly the more the better–and the more kinds. You can use just cilantro, just basil, or just mint, but if you have access, pick handfuls of all three.
I wrote the recipe to serve one. You can double and quadruple it for a crowd, for sure. But I like knowing that I’ve managed to bundle so much of the season’s essence into one bowl, for one meal.
The spicy, slightly sour dressing brings balance to the greens, an act that’s accompanied by a pour of cool Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Gris. Its aroma of stone fruit make the cashews and garlic taste nuttier and more golden somehow. Its lightness is a perfect match for a salad.
Just one more thing you should know: this is even better topped with a fried egg.
- ⅓ cup oil
- ¼ cup cashews
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- About 1 cup green leaf lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
- ⅓ cup mixed herbs: thai basil, mint, and cilantro
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced white onion
- 2 Thai green chilies, sliced
- 1½ tablespoons lime juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon oil
- pinch of salt
- Heat the oil over medium-high for about 3 minutes. Add one cashew; when it sizzles, add the rest. Fry until dark brown, watching carefully, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to move the cashews to a paper towel to drain. Return the pan to the heat. Add the 2 cloves of sliced garlic. Fry until they're a rich golden brown, about 1 minute. Again, use a slotted spoon to move them to a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle both cashews and garlic with salt.
- Combine the greens, herbs, onion, cashews, and garlic in a bowl and toss together.
- Pour the oil out of the frying pan and wipe it out. Add all the dressing ingredients to the pan and set over medium-low heat. When there are bubbles around the edges, pour the dressing over the salad and eat.