Many people assume that an unripe mango is not ready for prime time, but to me, it’s an opportunity to make gỏi xoài (mango salad). The traditional rendition includes cooked shrimp and fatty pork, but I’ve found that dropping the proteins not only makes the salad less fussy (read: faster to make) but also shifts the focus to the produce and highlights the tropical flavor combinations that are central to Vietnamese cooking. The decluttered version is lighter, brighter, and easily adapted for vegan diners.
At the store, choose a rock-hard, unripe mango (one with all or mostly green skin). Store it in the fridge to prevent ripening. When you’re ready to make the salad, peel it with a knife or vegetable peeler, removing all vestiges of the firm green skin. The remaining flesh sweetens slightly and softens in the salad. For the jicama, choose a small, blemish-free one (ideally no larger than a grapefruit); it will be sweeter and less starchy than older, bigger ones.
- In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, jicama, and mango and set aside. (The vegetables and fruit can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.)
- Using a fine rasp grater, such as a Microplane, zest the lime directly into a small bowl. Squeeze the lime to get 2 tablespoons of juice; if you’re short, add vinegar to make up the difference. Add the lime juice to the zest and then add the sugar (the amount depends on your palate and the mango—use more if the mango is sour). Stir to dissolve the sugar, then taste and add more sugar, if needed, for a strong tart-sweet finish. Add enough of the fish sauce to arrive at a bold, salty-tangy finish. Add the garlic and chile, stir, and then set the dressing aside.
- Toss the vegetables and fruit well with the dressing, mint, and peanuts, until the cabbage and jicama soften slightly. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl, leaving excess dressing behind.
- Serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography credit: Aubrie Pick © 2019