One of my favorite Thai appetizers is the fried curried fish balls called Thot-Mun. While they’re a bit of trouble for the home cook, the delicious cucumber salad that usually accompanies them is part of my enjoyment of the dish, and I often let it stand alone as a delicious salad course for a Thai dinner party.
The salad begins with simple syrup made of vinegar and light brown sugar. The combination is simmered up, then allowed to cool before being tossed with thinly sliced cucumber, hot chiles, peanuts and fresh herbs.
The salad dressing can be made a day ahead, and the cucumber can be sliced and chilled early in the day of your party. Combine the dressing and other ingredients just before serving, though, for the crispest salad that retains the true flavors of the herbs. The salad also makes a delicious bed for seared sashimi-grade tuna or sake-poached sea bass or halibut.
Slice cucumber into very thin slices. Place cucumbers in a bowl with chilies, peanuts and herbs. Pour the dressing over the top and mix gently.
Makes 6 servings.
*If using pickling cucumbers, slice in half lengthwise and remove the seeds before slicing. If using standard grocery store cucumbers, peel first, then slice and remove the seeds.