I had my first Thai salad in a little town called Fort Branch, outside Evansville, Ind., about eight years ago. I haven’t been the same since. The restaurant was called Thai Chow, and it was housed in a Quonset hut in the middle of nowhere. I went to visit my friend Jennika and her husband Robert, and they expressed their devotion to the place, so I thought, Why not?
“We have to call ahead,” Jennika told me earlier in the day. “We have to place our order so that they have all the ingredients.” OK, I thought, a little odd maybe, but I’ll go with it.
That night we drove out past any signs of life, to this little restaurant where we gave them our names and they eventually brought us exactly what we ordered. The decor was nothing I’d mention in a postcard, but the food was incredible. (FYI: I looked Thai Chow up on Facebook, and they’re still in business. It says right on the menu, “No walk-ins after 6” and “Cash only.”)
We had the Yum Nuer for starters, and there was really no reason for me to try anything else. It was a salad all right, but it was covered in shredded beef, some kind of crazy delicious lime dressing, and cilantro. Cilantro does not taste like soap to me. It tastes like heaven on earth.
Ever since we left the restaurant, I’ve been trying to figure out the ingredients in that dressing. A couple of years ago, I think I nailed it. Now I bring this Thai slaw/salad to every potluck I’m invited to, which, by the way, really isn’t all that many.
Always, though, I see people lingering next to my foil container, wondering what’s in it. Well, here you go.
2 bags coleslaw
2 bunches cilantro, chopped
2 bunches scallions, chopped
1 bunch basil, chopped
¼ cup sesame oil
¼ cup gluten-free soy sauce (regular works too)
3 large cloves garlic, chopped (a little larger than minced)
Juice of two limes
1 squeeze sriracha sauce
1 tsp. honey
1 shake ginger (the dried stuff)
Put the top four ingredients in a pan large enough for stirring. Mix the dressing well. Pour the dressing on top of the slaw mixture, and stir until all of it is coated.
You can eat at room temperature, or it keeps a couple of days in the fridge. Give it a quick stir before you serve it. (Sometimes I add boiled spaghetti to it for a twist on typical pasta salad.)