Ah, pomelo - the very first thing that I tasted when I arrived in Myanmar. After I landed in Yangon, Tyler picked me up and took us to our apartment in the suburbs of Yangon. When we arrived, the apartment was completely empty with almost no furniture, except there was a large, green fruit on the countertop.
He knew how much I love to eat fruit and how much I would love to have a fresh pomelo after a long and exhausting flight from Europe so he went ahead and bought it for me. I cradled it – the skin looked impenetrable, like a tough grapefruit. “How do you open it?” I asked excitedly - the flight really left me dehydrated so the idea of stuffing my face with fruit sounded so satisfying! He peeled it with a large sharp knife and carved the top layer away, then the membrane beneath. He handed me a piece of the juicy pink flesh, and wow, it was so delicious! It was sweeter and much less bitter than a grapefruit but just as refreshing. I couldn’t resist finishing the entire fruit (not an easy task!). And of course, over the next few days I couldn’t stop thinking up recipes for pomelo salad.
Our apartment was within walking-distance from a large wet-market, and I was excited to go explore it and find some juicy pomelos for the salad I wanted to prepare. This was my first experience going to a market outside of Europe or America – it was so different! Beautifully colored fruits and vegetables were everywhere as well as nuts, beans, fresh coconut water, flowers. And there were pomelos. Lots and lots of pomelos.
I first thought I would buy at least three, but I changed my mind when I picked one up and realized just how heavy the round green citruses were. I bought two and then went on a quest to purchase the rest of the ingredients. Getting ingredients is easier said than done because Myanmar markets never sell everything you need in the same place. I ended up making rounds around the market to find the fresh mint I needed for the salad, but was disappointed with the poor quality. I later learned that I can buy the freshest ingredients only very early in the morning when the locals are shopping for the day before the heat becomes unbearable.
Pomelo salads are widely popular among the people in Myanmar because of their refreshing characteristics. Traditional pomelo salad in Myanmar calls for peeled pomelos mixed with fried shallots and garlic, shallot-infused oil, fresh coriander, fish sauce, shrimp powder, and toasted chickpea flower. I tried this recipe a couple of times but, as is the case with most Burmese food, I found the flavors too pungent and strong for my palate. The amount of spices it used in these traditional recipe completely covered the flavor of the pomelo, so I decided to go for a different version, skipping and substituting some ingredients.
To be honest this salad does require a little bit of hard work, but the end result is definitely worth the effort. You need to carefully remove the thick skin off the pomelo and then meticulously remove the membrane without harming the fruit. Once the pomelo is peeled and the mango sliced, the job gets much easier - all you need to do it combine all the ingredients in one large bowl and toss the mixture with vinaigrette. Mix well and serve the cold or at room temperature.
You can buy pomelos in many large supermarkets in Europe and US, but they can be substituted with grapefruit in a pinch, though the salad loses much of the sweet flavor and becomes more intensely bitter. This is an ideal dish for whenever you are craving a juicy, refreshing salad, because it’s everything a salad should be – colorful, refreshing, and wholesome. It is distinctly fresh and goes well with roasted meats and grilled fish.
Pomelo Salad with Mango
Serves: 4-6 (depending if you serve it as a main dish or as a side)
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 10 min
Total time: 55 min
For the salad
- 2 large pomelos
- 1 ripe mango, thinly sliced (julienned)
- 1 cup chopped fresh mint (8-10 fresh mint leaves)
- 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds (or white if black are not available)
For the vinaigrette
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
- ½ cup sesame oil
- 75 ml/ 5 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons honey
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped peanuts (peanut or almond butter works great as well)
- ½ clove garlic
- ½ shallot
- ½ cup sesame oil
- ½ cup of chopped ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper, more to taste
- 1 red or green chili, seeded and chopped
Start with the preparation of the vinaigrette. Put the vinegar and honey into a small pan on medium-high heat. Gently stir until the honey completely dissolves. Slowly add sliced shallot, chopped ginger and chilies. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Pomelo has a thick skin, so to peel it, you need a sharp knife. Once the skin is removed, divide the pomelo into segments. Remove the membrane and any large pith carefully so you don’t harm the cells. Break the segments into one or two pieces than toss them in the vinaigrette. Let sit in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the dish.
Peel the mango with a vegetable peeler. To julienne it, slice off thin strips of mango with a mandolin or sharp knife and cut them into thin, long strips. Pick mint leaves off their stems and chop into thin slices.
Add mango and mint to the rest of the mixture. Add more vinaigrette if needed. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.
White sesame seeds, peanuts, or almonds are great additions to this salad as well.