Pomelo is a citrus fruit (the largest in fact!) native to and therefore widely popular in Southeast Asia. Like many of its citrus fruit relatives, the pomelo is available all year round but at its peak during the Northern hemisphere's winter months. It is relatively easy to find outside of Asia and is slowly becoming very popular, thanks in large part to its sweet, juicy and aromatic flesh. It's always evident if someone is peeling a pomelo because just the very act of cutting into its thick pith and separating the segments forces the natural oils in the skin to erupt from its pores, creating a floral citrus aroma bomb like no other. Delicious as it is with little to no manipulation, it's even better in a salad like this Vietnamese-inspired one. It should be said that Vietnamese salads are not typically known for hiding behind soft lettuce greens and dainty flavours but rather are in your face and unapologetically supercharged flavour rockets with equal parts bold spicy, salty, sour and sweet flavours. The best part about a salad like this is that if you happen to have a pomelo that's a little on the dry or even bland side and not fit to be eaten as is, fear not. The cast of supporting ingredients alone is enough to lift any starring ingredient, but it's highly encouraged to take the balancing of the flavours into your own hands as pomelos can vary in sweetness, tartness and bitterness, so some last-minute tasting and tweaking will almost always be necessary.
Pomelo Salad 5 Steps
Boil 1 cup of water and soak the dried shrimp for 5 minutes, drain off and dry on paper towel.
Using your hand to break up the sliced shallot into individual rings as much as possible, then placing into a small shallow pan with the neutral oil. Heat the shallot and oil together on medium high until the shallots begin sizzling aggressively. Allow to cook like this for 2-3 minutes on this heat level, stirring regularly until the shallots begin to turn a light golden brown. Turn the heat down to medium and allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly until they turn an even golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove quickly onto a paper towel-lined plate, season with a sprinkle of salt and allow to cool.
Drain off the hot shallot oil into a heat proof container, leaving just enough in the pan to very lightly coat the bottom (but do not discard! This flavored oil can now be reused for cooking). Add in the rehydrated dried shrimp and fry on medium heat until lightly browned, then transfer to the same paper towel-lined plate as the fried shallots cool.
Prepare the dressing: in a mortar and pestle combine the garlic cloves, sugar and chili. Pound until an even paste forms, this will not take long. Add in the lime juice, fish sauce, water and combine (alternatively you can mince the garlic clove and chili by hand and stir all the ingredients together).
In a large mixing bowl, break up the segmented pomelo into 1-inch bite sized pieces, roughly tear the cilantro and mint leaves by hand and add along with the fried shrimp, toasted coconut, toasted peanuts and the dressing. Gently toss together and check seasoning, adjusting as necessary with additional fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Transfer to a serving platter and top with additional toasted peanuts as well as the crispy fried shallots.