If you’re aiming to get over a shuddering aversion to beet, it may as well be through this salad. Sweet, nutty grated beetroot, tender minced pork, hot with chilli and pungent with raw garlic and shallot. Like several other Thai-style salads, depending on how hot you make this, it might destroy not only your face but anyone around you, too. Don’t let it bother you.
I understand if you hate beetroot. Just the very idea of those pre-cooked beetroots, at once too sweet and too vinegary, was deeply off-putting to me. I thought that all generations of beet were doomed to that grim, vacuum-packed fate. It’s still not my favourite vegetable–I can’t get it up for beetroot, really, certainly not in the same way I perv after potatoes–but my view of it has greatly improved after making it into this salad.
This is not, strictly speaking, seasonal, but I got a couple of golden beetroot last week in my vegbox and decided it’d be a good way for them to go. We’re coming to the end of big fat winter roots like beetroots, jerusalem artichokes, and maincrop potatoes. Spring means tender Jersey royals, crisp radishes and spring onions, all of which I’m greedily looking forward to.
But if, like me, you’ve still got some lovely plump beets hanging around, give them a try in this. I used golden beets because that’s what came in the box, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use normal red ones. I’ve read that golden ones have a milder flavour. Certainly they have a beautiful sunny colour, but the red ones are of course very striking. I don’t know if it’d be as appetising if the colour bled into the pork, though, and of course there’s always the Lady Macbeth aspect of handling red beetroot…
It took trial and error to get it right. Preparing it som tam style was not quite satisfying; golden beetroot is nuttier and a little milder than carrot in terms of rooty sweetness. (Also, julienning shit is always going to be a pain the arse). Something in the aftertaste told me that a tiny bit of soft, sweet pork was needed–I remembered a pub lunch I had with roast pork and beetroot, which was quite pleasing.
In the second version, I found that thin wedges of beetroot were good if you were eating the salad with only a fork but an unwieldy nuisance if you added a spoon and a plate of rice to the proceedings. It was also a bit difficult to toss as the slices stuck together. Pretty, though, with their yellow swirls.
RAW GOLDEN BEETROOT AND PORK SALAD WITH CHILLI & OTHER FACE-DESTROYING THINGS
Serves 1 in addition to a plateful of rice, 2 – 3 if part of a larger spread.
This salad does not keep: eat right away, or at least within a couple of hours.
This is one of many ways to make a vaguely Thai-style room-temperature salad: you pick a focal ingredient and dress it up.
If you don’t want pork, try minced chicken thighs or soya mince. I haven’t tested this recipe exactly with these substitutes, but I love chicken in larb and my beloved, fussy Pearents think Granose soya mince is delicious, so I imagine they’d work. Report back if you try, yes?
Apologies in advance for the annoying quantity of beetroot. I made this fresh each time, clingfilming and chilling the remaining half. The next day I thinly pared off the slightly darkened, dried part before proceeding.
50g minced pork (about 2 lightly packed tablespoons)
1 small/medium garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
1 small shallot, peeled and finely sliced into half-moons
About 100g golden beetroot, peeled, trimmed, and coarsely grated (this is the prepared weight from about half a medium beet)
Small handful of coriander sprigs–maybe about 4 – 7 depending on size (of appendage and plant), roughly chopped
1 – 3 bird’s eye chillies according to taste, finely sliced, de-seeded or not as you wish
1/2 – 1 teaspoon palm sugar (or less of granulated)
1 – 2 teaspoons fish sauce, to taste (try 1/4 teaspoon sea salt if you don’t want this)
Juice from 1/4 lime, more or less to taste
Put the mince in a small pan with 1 tablespoon water and cook, stirring, over a medium heat. You don’t want any browning, just gently steam it into soft little bits. When the mince is totally cooked and given off a little moisture, turn off the heat and add the minced garlic and shallot slices. Combine well, breaking up the shallot pieces.
Put the cooked mince mixture into a medium bowl with the grated beetroot, chopped coriander, and chillies. Toss well.
In a small bowl, mix together the palm sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice, stirring to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible. Pour a bit of this over the salad, toss well and taste. Add more dressing (or individual elements of the dressing) if you wish, depending on whether you want it sweeter, saltier, or tangier. Add more chillies or coriander, too, if you wish.
Once the salad tastes right to you, serve.