Food & Drink

When summer corn is at its sweetest, this Thai salad adds a little heat

Spicy Thai Corn Salad. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post. Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post.
Spicy Thai Corn Salad. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post. Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post.

When I crave fresh corn — meaning all summer long — I usually want an easy preparation that showcases its sweet flavor. Often, that means simply grilling, barely steaming or microwaving it. I’ll cook more than I need for one meal on the weekends, shave it off the cob and keep it around for salads, cold soups, grain bowls, tacos and more.

But when I’m after something a little more complex, I start branching out, to the Mexican street corn called elote, omelets and pasta with a creamy corn sauce. And now I’ve found another treatment to add to the repertoire: a Thai-style salad that combines corn with smashed green beans, shredded carrots, cashews and chiles in a salty, tart, sweet and spicy dressing.

The recipe is from Saiphin Moore’s new cookbook, “Rosa’s Thai Cafe: The Vegetarian Cookbook” (Mitchell Beazley, 2018). Named for the London restaurant group Moore founded with her husband, the book showcases her family’s recipes along with dishes from her time in northern Thailand, Hong Kong and London. If you think, as I once did, that traditional Thai food can’t be strictly vegan or vegetarian because of that ubiquitous fish sauce, Moore reminds readers that every October, an annual vegetarian festival with roots in Chinese Buddhism overtakes the nation. Restaurants and food stalls that are participating display yellow triangle flags. Many Thai people adopt a plant-based diet for the whole month, she says, and plenty do so the rest of the year at least weekly.

“There are many stories as to why vegetarianism is such an important part of Thai culture, mostly to do with showing gratitude to mother nature for providing us with bountiful land and to redeem ourselves for taking the lives of animals,” she writes.

After pounding together this salad (with a rolling pin and a gallon zip-top bag instead of the traditional mortar and pestle), and tasting its vibrant and potent flavors, I made a vow: Thailand was already high on my list of future travel destinations, but I’m moving it to the top. And I know just when I’ll go.

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