The perfect accompaniment to Pad Thai? A Thai salad with spicy peanut dressing, of course.
There’s nothing not to love about a Thai salad, with its tasty dressing and chopped peanut garnish. That said, I’ve grown weary of the takeout version with its nutritionally bereft iceberg lettuce and gastronomically challenged anemic tomatoes hidden under its ravishing coverlet. Rather than telephone ordering “Thai salad, please — hold the salad” and risk confusion (and derision), it has become obvious that it’s really just best for everyone involved if I make my own Thai salad at home.
Though the star of this salad is clearly the dressing, my additional goal was to increase the nutritional value of the dish and retain the traditional vegetables like hard-boiled (hard-cooked) eggs, tomato, and carrots. I placed these atop a bed of spinach and topped the whole thing with chopped scallions and crushed peanuts. (This is all part of a peanut theme, remember.) Now, if I were to make this into a big dinner salad, I would likely add cubed tofu and/or garbanzos to the mix and a few other veggies to boost the nutrient density of the meal. There was no need for all that given this was a side salad served alongside a Pad Thai with tofu, however. Not to mention that this whole salad charade is designed to create an effective spicy peanut dressing delivery system, obviously. I mean, who are we kidding here?
Sweet and spicy, nutty and creamy, simply amazing, here’s the how-to.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 inch piece ginger
- Juice from 1 lime (~2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp low-sodium tamari (soy sauce)
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 3 heaping tbsp peanut butter, unsalted
- 1-2 tsp sriracha (Asian chili sauce)
- 1 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preparation. Crush the garlic and grate the ginger into a small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until combined (or blend in a food processor). Taste. Tweak as desired. Too sweet? Pour in a bit more vinegar or give another squeeze of lime. Too thick? Same thing (or more peanut oil). Too bland? Consider more srirachi, soy sauce, or black pepper. Rewhisk, reseason, and you’re done.
Subtle Substitutions. The visible difference between my version and the take-away is the greens. However, I’m also making a number of other changes to improve its nutritional profile such as reducing the salt by using low-sodium soy sauce and unsalted peanut butter. My version likely has less sugar, too, and features brown rice vinegar.
Other Notes. Like a satay sauce, this dressing makes a superb dip for vegetables – cucumbers come to mind – or cubed tofu. It could also be served with fish and vegetables in a main meal and/or with pasta, as it’s rather similar to the sauce for cold sesame noodles. (Recipe coming soon.)
Oh, and did I forget to mention that this dressing-slash-sauce will rock your world?
Just to be clear, we still do order Thai takeout on occasion (lest my husband revolt). And you can bet that I still order a Thai salad, although I add a whole bunch of good-for-you greens to the mix, employing whatever I have sitting in my fridge.
And of course I order extra dressing.
Dr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, check out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my cooking videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more. Thanks for reading!