Cambodian Pomelo Salad with Prawns Recipe
This Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe has been a favourite since we moved to Cambodia and is a breeze to make. It’s also another traditional dish that can be served in a more contemporary style for entertaining.
Salads are always a component of a Cambodian meal and this Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe has fresh, clean flavours. Often served with pork, this version uses large, fresh shrimps for protein.
This was another traditional dish, along with the sweet pork belly with boiled eggs and beef lok lak, that we took inspiration from when we developed our creative Cambodian canapes over the New Year holiday.
Cambodian Pomelo Salad with Prawns Recipe
This Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe has been a favourite since we moved to Cambodia. It’s a salad we always look forward to eating at Sugar Palm restaurant here in Siem Reap and guests we take to the restaurant always love the dish.
The big secret with this Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe is to only dress the salad just as you’re about to serve it so the prawns retain firmness.
Many versions of this recipe use pork, generally boiled and sliced. To me, boiling a piece of pork belly or tenderloin is a waste of produce. I’ve really never made a recipe where boiling — or steaming — pork gives a better flavour than other ways of cooking it.
While I could say the same about blanching prawns (like in this recipe), unlike the pork, the prawns can absorb the flavour of the dressing quickly and if the prawns are firm they taste delicious.
This recipe uses dried shrimp and in Cambodia dried shrimp is a serious business. In Siem Reap, the stands that sell the shrimp at Old Market have regular customers who take time to inspect the different grades and sizes before making a purchase. While you can buy dried shrimp in the local supermarkets, the stalls at Old Market offer far superior quality and are the place to make a purchase.
The pomelo is the largest citrus fruit here and is native to South-East Asia. Similar to grapefruit (which can be used as a substitute in this recipe), it’s less sour and is often a lot more firm.
Just like eating an orange, you want to get the segments of the pomelo separated, then into bite-sized pieces with no seeds or pith.
If you’re buying grated coconut (in Australia we used to call it desiccated coconut) to toast it, just put the coconut in a non-stick pan over medium heat, use a silicon spatula, and keep the coconut moving in the pan until it turns light brown.
Some recipes include fried sliced garlic and shallots. While I don’t disapprove of the shallots, we were going for a fresh, clean flavour for this dish and the garlic can be too much. We also already have a touch of garlic in the sauce.
Speaking of the sauce, it’s a great one for all kinds of Asian salads and is fantastic on whole steamed fish.
You’ll find the traditional Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe below.
For our contemporary presentation, we essentially deconstructed the salad, spiking a toothpick through the prawn, a leaf of fresh mint, and the segment of pomelo (on the bottom). We then ground the dried shrimp and sprinkled that, along with grated coconut and peanuts over the individual portions.
- 1 large pomelo, segments broken into bite-sized pieces
- 3 medium/large prawns per person, blanched
- 2 tbsp dried shrimp
- 2 tbsp peanuts, roasted, unsalted and lightly crushed
- 2 tbsp grated coconut, toasted
- 1 cup mint leaves (assorted if you can get them)
- 1 fresh bird’s eye chilli (optional)
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp sugar (use liquid palm sugar if possible)
- 4 tbsp lime juice
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp cold water
- Make the sauce first. Combine all the ingredients and mix until the sugar has dissolved. This sauce can keep for a couple of days.
- Soak the dried shrimp in warm water for a few minutes (up to 10) and lightly pound in a mortar and pestle.
- Place pomelo pieces, dried shrimp, the blanched prawns and half of the mint leaves in a salad bowl.
- When you are ready to eat start mixing in the sauce. Add the rest of the mint, sprinkle over the coconut and the peanuts.
- Serve immediately.