Vegan Pomelo Salad Recipe (Yum Sum-O)

AKA Pomelo, Shredded Coconut, Peanut, Shallot, and Coriander Salad with Garlic-Lime-Soy-Tamarind Sauce.

What is a pomelo, you ask? Well, pomelo is a large citrus fruit in the same family as the grapefruit; but don’t be put off if you, like me, aren’t overly fond of grapefruit – the taste is pretty different, less bitter and divisive. It’s popular across South East Asia, used in desserts and savoury dishes alike. Pomelos are, extremely unexpectedly, totally ubiquitous and super cheap in Lugano’s supermarkets at the moment (99 cents for a 1.3kg fruit – that’s literally less than I’d pay in Hong Kong); perfect for making this fresh, addictive and deceptively complex-looking salad.

Spoilt teenager in Thailand

I was lucky enough to count Thailand as a family favourite holiday destination growing up, due to its proximity to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I was also a born picky eater. The only Thai foods I expressed any interest in before the age of 15 were garlic broccoli, steamed / fried rice and mango sticky rice (my recipe for this is lit – I will share in time!). Luckily, between the ages of 15 and 25 I have had plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time on the food front. I discovered a love for Thai cuisine, particularly its zesty salads; though I always asked for them to be made vegetarian, in hindsight I suspect I consumed a fair deal of fish sauce and shrimp paste, which are fundamental to many Thai dishes.

This is one of my favourite Thai salads, and luckily it’s super easy to emulate and vegetarian-ify using store cupboard products. In fact, as a general tip, and Thai people please don’t cancel me for this, soy sauce is a fantastic vegetarian substitute for fish sauce.

Without further ado, although I know everyone loves the food blogger life story preface, the recipe:


Serves 6 as a substantial side / starter

For the salad:
1x large pomelo (unpeeled weight ca. 1.3kg)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup (pre-roasted & salted) peanuts
2 small shallots (40g)
20g fresh coriander

For the dressing:
1 1/2 tsp palm sugar (brown sugar is a worthy substitute)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup lime juice (75ml)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate


1- Cut the pomelo. This can be done in advance. I’m not particularly skilled at this; it’s therefore the most time consuming aspect of preparing this recipe for me, taking about 20 minutes. Once you get into the groove it’s quite soothing. Given my lack of skill here, check out this guide for tips – but we don’t require as uniform slices as those in the guide – see below!

2- Dry toast the desiccated coconut in a frying pan on medium heat until fragrant and golden, keeping a tentative eye on it so that it doesn’t burn. Set aside in a separate bowl (if it stays in the pan it’ll continue to cook!)

3- Make the dressing. I usually start by mincing the garlic so that it has some time to mellow in the lime – soy sauce dressing mix. Thereafter, you basically just mix together all of the listed dressing ingredients. Simple!

4- Crush the peanuts – I used my Kenwood mini chopper, but normally would use a mortar and pestle, I just don’t happen to have one here. You don’t want them too fine, keep things crunchy – see below.

5- Finely dice shallots.

6- Roughly chop coriander.

7- Assemble the salad. This is essentially a matter of throwing everything in a bowl. I start with the pomelo then add everything else and pouring over the (well mixed) dressing, reserving a handful of peanuts and coriander to be used for the ~aesthetic~.

8- Serve! (Suggestions for doing so below!)

Leftover rating: 3/3, this can be made pretty far ahead of serving, though if you’re doing so I’d suggest adding the coriander just before serving so it doesn’t wilt. Thereafter, it’ll keep for a good few days. Be mindful that this recipe makes quite a lot, so possibly halve it if there are fewer of you or you don’t wish to eat it daily for the next few days (I personally don’t mind doing this, it’s great)

Tupperwared and ready to go

Serving Suggestions / Swaps / Tips

We’re a bit too disorganised in this household to divide meals into starters and mains (dessert is an exception), so while this would make an excellent Thai-themed dinner party starter, I tend to serve it as a side, usually with a vegetarian yellow curry (store-bought paste, so I didn’t really see the point of sharing a ‘recipe’) and rice (preferably delicious purple rice), as seen above.

There are a couple of slightly niche ingredients in here, notably the pomelo itself (depending on where you are) and tamarind concentrate. Both of these things can be bought from pretty much any Asian store in the U.K., and Asia Market here in Lugano (and, apparently, Lidl for pomelo). In Hong Kong, most wet markets have a Thai stall (I’m aware of one on the bottom floor of the Kennedy town wet market, and several throughout Wanchai market). If you can’t find tamarind concentrate, you can omit it, but it is a lovely ingredient to have for both Thai and Indian dishes!

And that’s it! All that’s left is an apology for inactivity, as is custom at this point. After tomorrow I have a bit more free time for Christmas (although much of this ought to be spent revising for January exams), and get to enjoy being in the beautiful kitchen at Tom’s family home in England, so perhaps I’ll be feeling a bit more creative. Stay safe and have a lovely pre-Christmas.


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