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.
Spicy Thai Corn Salad
Servings: 6 to 8 (makes 8 cups)
The original recipe called for a mortar and pestle, but because we doubled the recipe beyond the capacity of most mortars, we found it easier to put the ingredients into a gallon-size zip-top bag and pound with a rolling pin. (You could also use a flat-sided meat pounder.)Ingredients:1 to 2 red Thai bird’s eye chiles (depending on your tolerance for heat), stemmed, seeded and cut into ½-inch slices (see headnote)4 cloves garlic, chopped2 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (¾ cup)2 tablespoons light brown sugar2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, or more as needed¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 or 3 limes)2 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into 8 wedges each3 medium carrots, scrubbed well, then coarsely grated2½ cups cooked corn kernels (from 3 cobs; see NOTE)1¾ cups roasted, unsalted cashewsMethod:Combine the chiles (to taste) and garlic in a gallon zip-top bag and zip it almost all the way closed, leaving an inch or two unzipped. Use a rolling pin to pound the chiles and garlic through the plastic and form a rough paste. Add the beans and pound briefly to crush them a little. Add the brown sugar, soy sauce and lime juice.
Add the tomatoes and pound briefly, just to flatten them. Stir in the carrots and corn; pound gently, just to help the flavors incorporate. Taste, and add more soy sauce as needed.
Transfer to a serving bowl, top with the cashews and serve right away.
NOTE: For an easy way to briefly cook corn that makes it easy to husk and de-silk, dip the three cobs, husks and all, in water (just to moisten them). Microwave on HIGH for 4 to 5 minutes, until very hot. Remove, let cool for a bit, then use a sharp knife to cut crosswise through the husk and cob an inch or two from the wide end (opposite from the end with the tassel of silk). Hold the silk end, and push the corn out. To cut off the kernels, let the cobs cool until easy to handle. Cut the cobs in half crosswise, stand each half on one end and cut off the kernels from each side.
Nutrition: Per serving (based on 8): 270 calories, 7 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar
Source: Adapted from Rosa’s Thai Cafe: The Vegetarian Cookbook, by Saiphin Moore (Mitchell Beazley, 2018).