Ok, Thai and quinoa in one recipe doesn't seem very traditional. It's not. But it is the coolest creation by one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area: Daughter Thai in Mont Clair. I have to say, having lived in Thailand for 3 years, I have become somewhat of a Thai food snob. The majority of Thai restaurants are just satays and pre-made curry sauces thrown together with whatever meat or vegetable you want with some bland rice on the side. Most of it is uninspired and doesn't even taste like anything you would find in Thailand. So ever since my bestie introduced me to this restaurant, I have been hooked! Every dish is a flavor bomb, and some of the fusion creations - like their quinoa salad - are so amazing, you wonder why no one else has them on the menu. So because you may not live in the Bay Area, and because I've been craving their quinoa salad, I have tried to replicate the quinoa salad, and it is so good, I have now had it 3 days in a row. :-)
On another note, if you are not used to eating coconut in savory dishes, then you may end up being surprised by this one. In Thailand, the entire coconut gets used for both savory and sweet dishes, and you will find coconut in pretty much everything - from the oil, to the water, the meat, and the milk. I once had a client who tried a savory coconut recipe, and told me it was weird, as she was thinking of Pina coladas, but then there was kale in her mouth. So give it a try - you may be pleasantly surprised!
The original salad mixes half quinoa and half brown rice, but if you don't have time to cook both, quinoa by itself (or really any other grain!) will work just as well. And as always, don't make quinoa just for one dish. Prep one grain, and eat it in different variations all week.
Preparation time: 15 minutes plus quinoa cooking time
Makes 1 main serving or 2 sides:
For the salad:
1 cup thinly sliced lettuce (best is Romaine, but any other light green lettuce will work, too!)
1 cup small grated carrots (about 2 medium sized carrots)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup cooked and cooled quinoa (doesn't have to be super cold if you just cooked it for this recipe)
1/2 cup cooked and cooled brown rice (or more quinoa)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh lemongrass (see bonus note below)
2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 Tbsp finely chopped spring onion
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
1 Tbsp coconut cream (the top when you buy coconut milk) or coconut yogurt
For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Thai red chili, finely chopped (optional depending how spicy you like it)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce or other alternative)
1 Tbsp raw honey (or other liquid sweetener of your choice)
1 Tbsp melted virgin coconut oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Now that you have gotten through the overwhelming ingredient list, let's get this salad on the table! Start with toasting the desiccated coconut. You will want to put it in a pan over medium heat, and keep stirring until the coconut is slightly browned. This will only take a minute or two, so keep your eyes on the pan. Place the coconut in your salad bowl when browned.
Add all the other ingredients, except for the coconut cream or yogurt.
Add all the dressing ingredients into a small jar, close with a lid, and shake, shake, shake until well combined.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss, and top with coconut cream or yogurt. Done!