The first time I had green mango salad (or goi xoai xanh in Vietnamese) was only last December. I was in Danang, and my food guide, Lena T., took us to a small family-run shop serving snacks like grilled rice paper topped with pâté and a fried quail egg. This is where I had green mango salad dressed in a sweet, syrupy fish sauce. It was simple yet bursting with flavor, and I knew I’d have to try recreating this dish back home.

That’s what I love about traveling—to be inspired by the foods I eat, and then to recreate that bite—and, thus, the memory—in my own kitchen.

Goi xoai xanh in Danang

The goi xoai xanh from Danang that started it all

I got the opportunity to make my own green mango salad a couple of months later when I cooked a private dinner to raise money for the Delta Gamma Foundation, a philanthropic group that supports those living with vision loss. I collaborated with Chef Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri (now open in New York), so the salad, instead of being served with sesame rice crackers, was plated with papadums, best described as thin, crispy Indian chips.

Green mango is just young, unripened mango. They can be found in Asian or Mexican markets. Store them chilled in your fridge and make the salad soon, because as soon as the mangoes begin to ripen, it changes the taste and texture of the salad completely (and not for the better). You need that sour crunchiness of the green mango to balance the sweet, unctuous fish sauce caramel.

I like this dish because it’s simple, doesn’t require a lot of ingredients nor effort, and yet it’s not your run-of-the-mill Vietnamese salad. It was a hit at the DGF dinner and every time I serve it, whether it be for a casual occasion or fancier dinner.

Recipe: Green Mango Salad with Fish Sauce Caramel

Notes: Use young, green, unripened mangoes. Be forewarned: the fish sauce caramel will stink up your house.

Ingredients

  1. 2 green mangoes peeled & shredded into 1/2” strips with a Y-peeler
  2. 1/2 c peanuts, roasted & crushed
  3. culantro, Vietnamese coriander, or mint; chiffonaded
  4. Vietnamese beef jerky, shredded (optional—can be found at a specialty Vietnamese shop selling dried meats and fruits)
  5. Fish sauce caramel:

  6. 3/4 c granulated sugar
  7. 1/2 c fish sauce
  8. 1 c water
  9. Accompaniments (optional):

  10. sesame rice crackers (banh trang me)

Instructions

  1. Make caramel: Don a surgical face mask now if needed. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to boil sugar, fish sauce, and water; cook until thickened, approx 20 to 30m, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool until reduced to syrup consistency, approx 20 to 30m more.
  2. Toss salad: In a large bowl, toss mango with caramel, peanuts, culantro, and beef jerky if using.
  3. Serve with sesame rice crackers.

Active time: 40m
Total time: 1h 10m
Yields: 4 to 6 servings

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