Why It Works
- Cooking the rice until just barely tender preserves its texture when tossed with the vinaigrette.
- Grilling the vegetables adds smokiness and charred flavors. Threading the peppers and snap peas on skewers makes them easy to maneuver on the grill.
- Toasted cashews balance the textures of the salad, adding a welcome crunch.
Inspired by Thai grilled beef salad (neua nam tok), this salad replaces the meat with grilled vegetables and adds fragrant jasmine rice. It's loaded with fresh herbs and dressed with a bracing, fish sauce-spiked lime vinaigrette. Plus, because the vegetables are grilled, they give the salad a deeper, smoky flavor.
The vinaigrette is intentionally bold—an ingredient like rice has a way of soaking up flavors, so it can handle an assertive dressing. Does the fish sauce smell overwhelmingly pungent all on its own? You bet. But once it's incorporated into the mix, it lends an intoxicating, inoffensive depth and aroma that you won't want to miss.
If you want to add meat to this salad, go ahead and do so. Grilled chicken or beef would work beautifully. Pork is a no-brainer, too. Heck, even shrimp would work. Use a thin cut of meat that requires minimal cooking time, and toss it on the grill right before serving. Come to think of it, make an extra batch of vinaigrette and marinate the meat or shrimp in the refrigerator for an hour first.
As with any good salad, this one has a healthy blend of textures, in this case in the form of crumbled, toasted cashews. If you're making the salad in advance, wait to add them until just before serving.
- For the Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice from about 8 to 10 limes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- For the Salad:
- 2 (3/4-inch-thick) slices from a large red onion
- 3 large carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- 15 sugar-snap peas
- 8 whole tri-color mini bell peppers or 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, quartered
- 2 jalapeños
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Kosher salt and freshly gound black pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 cup finely chopped Thai basil or sweet basil
- 2 cups cooked and cooled Jasmine rice (see notes)
- 1/2 cup lightly toasted cashews, chopped or crumbled
For the Vinaigrette: Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl. Reserve.
For the Salad: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate.
Toss onion slices, carrots, snap peas, peppers, and jalapeños with oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Thread snap peas on one skewer; thread mini bell peppers, if using, and jalapeños on second skewer.
Grill vegetables directly over the flames, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes total.
When snap peas, peppers, and jalapeños are cool enough to handle, remove skewers. Stem and seed peppers and jalapeños, and discard stems and fibrous strings from snap peas. Chop vegetables coarsely, place in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Let stand for 5 minutes. Then, add cilantro, mint, basil, rice, and cashews and toss well. Dress with vinaigrette to taste and toss well again. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, passing additional vinaigrette at the table.
Do not overcook the rice. You want it to stand up to the vinaigrette without turning into a soggy mess. It's therefore best to remove it from the heat right when it loses its "bite."
Make-Ahead and Storage
You can cook the rice ahead of time and refrigerate it. However, it's best to dress the salad shortly before serving it, ideally at room temperature.