Green mango (or papaya) salad is addictive. It hits all those sweet, tangy and fresh notes that wake up your palate at the beginning of a meal, or refresh it after a bite of spicy curry. My wife and I have been known to narrow down our selection of Vietnamese restaurants purely based on the quality of their mango salad, and to use the leftover dressing to flavor our bun when the house sauce isn't vegetarian.
This salad works best with slightly underripe mangos. You want them to be firm, but not rock hard. The easiest way to cut them is with a mandoline, and it makes for neater presentation. You can do it with a knife too, it just takes a little more time.
I've experimented with different ways to make the dressing without fish sauce. Often a little soy sauce works as an umami-rich substitute, but in this case I like a bit of Chinese sesame oil instead. Not traditional but I think it works very well. I like the dressing to be rather sweet. You should adjust it to balance the particular mangos you are working with.
Vietnamese Green Mango Salad
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 4 tablespoons palm sugar or half white sugar, half light brown
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 underripe mangos cut into medium batons (see photo)
- 1/2 small red onion, cut into very thin rings and soaked briefly in cold water
- 1 small green chili (Thai bird, or if not handy, jalapeno or serrano can be fine too) (optional)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 handful cilantro or mint leaves (or a mixture)
- If using palm sugar, crush first in mortar and pestle. It may help to microwave a bit and/or moisten. Combine the lime juice, sugar, ginger, salt, and sesame oil. Shake well to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust the balance of flavors. It should be fairly sweet.
- Just before serving, combine the dressing with the mango, red onion, green chili, most of the sesame seeds and most of the herbs.
- Garnish with the remaining sesame seeds and herbs.