This Shan tomato salad recipe with shallots, sesame and coriander will make you a sweet tomato salad textured with crunchy purple onions, sesame seeds and crispy fried shallots and garlic, and fragrant fresh coriander. Mostly made with green tomatoes, it’s typically eaten as a refreshing accompaniment to rich curries but can also be enjoyed with steamed rice.
Hailing from beautiful Shan State in northeastern Myanmar – a fertile region of forested mountains, rolling hills and serene lakes – this delicious Shan tomato salad recipe with shallots, sesame and coriander is mostly made with crunchy green tomatoes, although we’ve also had it with red tomatoes. It’s terrific with either – or both.
Shan cuisine, like many of Myanmar’s cuisines – and all of the northern Southeast Asian cuisines, in fact – is distinguished by its fantastic salads. Over the years I’ve heard travellers praise the salads but complain about Myanmar’s oily curries, not realising that the salads are accompaniments to those curries, providing a refreshing contrast.
If you’re a salad lover like I am, I encourage you to explore the astonishing arrays of salads on a future trip to Myanmar, when it’s safe to travel there again. Because, as I mentioned in the introduction yesterday to our Shan vermicelli noodle salad recipe, in case you’re not aware, Myanmar has been off limits to travellers since a coup d’état in February ousted the democratically elected government.
A nationwide civil disobedience movement followed, to which the military junta responded with extraordinary brutality, violence against peaceful protestors, raids on homes of activists and abductions, massacres in the streets, and airstrikes on villages, resulting in thousands of deaths of innocent civilians, including frontline Covid workers.
You would be forgiven if you weren’t aware, because Myanmar had by and large disappeared from mainstream news media until recent days, which have seen coverage on the escalation of violence and deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s court appearance, and that’s my motivation for this recipe series. I’ll soon be publishing a dedicated guide to how you can help the people of Myanmar. I’ll keep sharing recipes for our favourite dishes from Myanmar with links to that guide.
Until I can post that guide, I’m going to highlight organisations that need support such as the independent news and current affairs magazine Frontier Myanmar. The military regime is targeting journalists and media organisations desperately need funds to continue important reporting work. You can subscribe, make a donation or become a member.
Update: so far we’ve published recipes for Burmese Indian-style chicken curry, Burmese street food-style fried chicken, Burmese coconut rice, Burmese raw cabbage salad, and a Shan vermicelli noodle salad (link above). Older recipes include a Burmese egg curry and ohn no khao swe, one of our favourite soups from Myanmar.
Now let me tell you a little bit about this fabulous Shan tomato salad recipe with shallots, sesame and coriander.
Shan Tomato Salad Recipe with Shallots, Sesame and Coriander from Shan State, Myanmar
This Shan tomato salad recipe with shallots, sesame and coriander will make you a sweet, salty, juicy tomato salad textured with crunchy purple onions, sesame seeds and crispy fried shallots and garlic, and fragrant fresh coriander.
While the origin of this luscious Shan tomato salad is Shan State, where it’s typically made with crunchy green tomatoes, you’ll spot this salad everywhere in Myanmar now, and if you do some online research, you’ll find it’s mostly called a Burmese tomato salad recipe.
We learnt to make the salad on a Shan cooking class held in the humble home of a local cook and her dear elderly mother, not far from the floating vegetable gardens on lovely Inle Lake, where these divine tomatoes are grown. I often wonder how they are, and how the people of Inle are currently managing.
The Shan tomato salad recipe we learnt to make called for green tomatoes, but we’ve eaten this Shan salad with both green and red tomatoes in Myanmar. They’re both absolutely delicious due to the zingy dressing and texture and fragrance of the garnishes. I would have loved to have published this recipe with green tomatoes, however, we currently can’t get them here in Siem Reap.
Feel free to use whatever good quality tomatoes you can get hold of. I only have a couple of tips to making this Shan tomato salad recipe with shallots, sesame and coriander, as it’s super easy to make and comes together quickly.
Tips to Making This Shan Tomato Salad Recipe
In Myanmar, we were served this Shan tomato salad as both a tossed salad, as well as a flat salad, as we’ve presented it here. The reason I prefer laying the tomatoes down like this on the plate is because the bottom layer sits in the dressing, making for juicier tomatoes.
It’s important to salt your tomatoes first as salt brings out the flavour and sweetness of the tomatoes. After you make the dressing, you can also let that sit for a while so the flavours meld together. Do that with any dressings or dipping sauces that contain fish sauce.
I’m increasingly seeing recipes calling for cooks to soak raw onions and raw shallots in water to reduce the astringency and soften the onion, but that sharpness and crunch is what most of us love about onions. I don’t recommend it, but do as you please.
Pour your dressing on first, then sprinkle on the garnishes. Don’t do it in reverse as the dressing will wash them away and make your crispy fried shallots and crispy fried garlic soggy, and what I really love about this Shan tomato salad recipe is the crunchy and crispy textures, along with the perfume of the coriander.
This makes a good-sized salad for two people, with leftovers – and this salad tastes just as delicious the next day – but if you’re serving a Shan feast with a curry, another salad or two, and rice, then you can easily stretch it to feed four.
If I’m serving this to guests, I’ll provide additional dishes of the garnishes as I love to encourage people to customise their food, as is the habit here in Southeast Asia.
Shan Tomato Salad Recipe
- 300 g tomatoes - green or red, sliced thickly
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil or peanut oil
- 2 tbsp white rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 cloves garlic - finely diced
- 1 bird’s eye chilli - finely sliced, deseeded
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 small purple shallot - diced
- 2 tsp white sesame seeds - toasted
- ½ tsp black sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp roasted peanuts - crushed
- 1 tbsp crispy fried shallots
- 1 tbsp crispy fried garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh coriander - cilantro, smallest leaves
- Lay the thick slices of tomato down on a serving plate and sprinkle with salt to bring out their flavour.
- Make the dressing in a small measuring jug by mixing the vegetable oil or peanut oil, white rice vinegar, fish sauce, finely diced garlic and chilli, and sugar, stirring vigorously until the sugar is completely dissolved. Taste, and add salt if needed, but keep in mind you’ve salted the tomatoes; you can always add salt after serving.
- Pour the dressing over the tomatoes, then sprinkle on the diced purple shallot, sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, crispy fried shallots, crispy fried garlic, and fresh coriander.
- Serve with additional garnishes if you’re dining with guests, so they can add more texture and flavour if they wish.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this Shan tomato salad recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.