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Fruits de Mer; Also, Seafood and Fruit

When you’re in the Mediterranean, you can’t help but crave seafood. The smell of the ocean is in the air, the boats are in the harbor, and it’s difficult to imagine cows and pigs and goats. They’re there, but they seem out of place.

We were on the island of Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands and an autonomous region of Spain. It’s an incredibly popular destination for German and British tourists, and you’ll find a mashup of modern Euro-style nightlife and prehistoric archeological artifacts. You’ll also find Phoenician, Roman, and Islamic ruins along with the famous Catedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca standing guard over the ocean in the heart of the city of Palma.

We’d spent the day visiting the famous agricultural terraces of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we were definitely in the mood for seafood and something to quench our thirst, so we walked to La Parada del Mar, the famous Palma de Mallorca restaurant where the fishmonger greets you at the door. You select your catch from the glass-front case, where it’s sent to the kitchen to be prepared as you like it. The atmosphere is casual and a bit raucous; after all, you’re dining in a fish market.

However, we weren’t the only ones in the mood for seafood that evening. Despite arriving just after opening time on a weeknight, the line of customers already stretched out the door and down the block, and the wait was estimated to be two hours — if we were lucky.

We are patient people, but we were also hungry people, so we walked back up Avinguda de Joan Miró and immediately spotted Maothai Palma. There was no wait, the menu featured a number of seafood selections, and the dining room had a lovely view of the gardens of the Palacio Marivent, the summer residence of the Spanish royal family. Sold!

Maothai’s cuisine is an interesting crossroads of Thai ingredients served in a Spanish island style. Since I was both hungry and thirsty, a chose a dish that seemed like it would satisfy both: yum som-o (ยำส้มโอ).

This classic Thai salad features segments of juicy, sweet pomelo alongside lightly-poached shrimp and topped with a dressing of coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, and tamarind. It’s perfect with a glass of Spanish cava, which is made in the same method as French Champagne but with different grapes.

While some Thai recipes can be complicated to recreate successfully — pad thai being one that trips up many home cooks — yum som-o is easy to make. Your biggest challenge will likely be finding pomelos, but grapefruit makes a convenient substitution.

And whether you’re enjoying it in Thailand, in Mallorca, or at your own kitchen table, yum som-o is sure to earn a spot in your regular summer rotation.

This week’s subscriber exclusives: One of my favorite things about eating in Thailand is the abundance of fresh fruit. Markets sell it. Street vendors sell it. Convenience stores sell it. I’m convinced that eating all that fresh fruit is one reason Thai people are such a happy people. In addition to pomelo (som-o), you’ll find mainstream fruit like mango (ma-muang), pineapple (sapparod), papaya (ma-la-kaw), and guava (farang) as well as exotic dragonfruit (gao mung gorn), rambutan (ngor), custard apples (noi-na), and Mr. Mike Ballard’s favorite, mangosteen (mang-kut). You’ll also find durian (tu-rian), which is the most love/hate of the Asian fruits. Aside from the durian, all fruits are delicious in Coconut Milk Tropical Fruit Salad.

As previously mentioned, Spanish cava makes a delightful pairing for pomelo shrimp salad, but why not whip up a Lemongrass Margarita instead? The fresh, herbal flavors muddled in your shaker take the traditional tequila-and-lime cocktail on a trip through Southeast Asia that’s addictively delicious.

Subscribers to Around the World in 80 Plates have exclusive access to recipes for both of these juicy summer treats.

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Thai Pomelo and Shrimp Salad (Yum Som-O)

This classic Thai salad features segments of juicy, sweet pomelo alongside lightly-poached shrimp and topped with a dressing of coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, and tamarind. It’s light, fresh, and beautiful, which makes it a great dish to serve to guests!

If you can’t find pomelos, substitute grapefruit instead. If the grapefruit is particularly tart, you may want to add additional sugar to the dressing.

3 pomelos or grapefruit, peeled and separated into segments
1 lb. jumbo shrimp (21–25 count), peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup shallots, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon palm sugar
or light brown sugar
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup matchstick carrots
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
fresh cilantro

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil, shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the shallots and garlic are tender and beginning to brown. Add the coconut milk, tamarind paste, and sugar and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool to room temperature.

In a small skillet over medium-low heat, lightly toast the coconut flakes, watching closely to prevent burning. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large skillet with a small amount of water or vegetable oil, lightly poach the shrimp. You may need to work in batches to cook the shrimp in a single layer at a time.

To the coconut milk mixture, add the lime juice and fish sauce, stirring to combine well.

In a bowl, toss together the pomelo or grapefruit segments, the poached shrimp, the matchstick carrots, and the coconut milk mixture. Arrange this in portions in individual shallow bowls or on a single deep serving platter. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and chopped peanuts. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Makes two entrée servings or four appetizer servings.

For $5 a month, you can get an additional weekly issue of Around the World in 80 Plates that includes bonus recipes not available to the public.

This week’s subscriber exclusives:

  • Coconut Milk Tropical Fruit Salad: One of my favorite things about eating in Thailand is the abundance of fresh fruit. Markets sell it. Street vendors sell it. Convenience stores sell it. I’m convinced that eating all that fruit is one reason Thai people are such a happy people. In addition to pomelo (som-o), you’ll find mainstream fruit like mango (ma-muang), pineapple (sapparod), papaya (ma-la-kaw), and guava (farang) as well as exotic dragonfruit (gao mung gorn), rambutan (ngor), custard apples (noi-na), and Mr. Mike Ballard’s favorite, mangosteen (mang-kut). You’ll also find durian (tu-rian), which is the most love/hate of the Asian fruits. Aside from the durian, all fruits are delicious in this refreshing fruit salad.
  • Lemongrass Margarita: The fresh, herbal flavors muddled in your shaker take the traditional tequila-and-lime cocktail on a trip through Southeast Asia that’s addictively delicious.

Subscribe now

Food and folklore from my travels to over 100 countries.

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