This dish, called Yam Polamai, has always been a hit with my guests, despite its unusual ingredient list. While it’s on my restaurant menu, not too many are adventurous enough to try it, possibly because the idea of combining fruit and shrimp with a chilli-lime dressing isn’t so appealing. That’s a real pity because the sharp contrast of textures, colours, and flavours is a delight on the palate.
I first found this recipe through one of Madhur Jaffrey’s delightful cookbooks on Far-eastern cookery. I have modified the recipe a little to my liking, adding some mint leaves to give a cooling counter-point to the other sharp flavours and adding a touch more red chilli.
1 cup papaya
1 cup apples
1 cup green seedless grapes
1 cup pineapple
(All fruits should be chopped into ?” x ?” pieces.)
100 grams medium prawns, peeled and cooked (blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds)
4 tablespoons of shallots (small onions) – sliced and deep-fried to golden brown till they are crisp
1 tablespoon garlic – fried on low heat for about ten seconds. They shouldn’t turn brown.
4 small green chillies – sliced very fine (about 2mm thick)
5 tablespoons of toasted peanuts – lightly crushed
Handful of fresh mint leaves – chopped fine
Juice of two medium lemons
1 teaspoon chili powder (cayenne pepper in USA)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce – adjust to taste
Combine the fruits with the shredded chicken and prawns. Mix well.
Combine the salad dressing ingredients and stir till all the sugar is dissolved. The lemon flavour can vary widely depending upon the type of lemon used, so dip your finger in and taste the dressing. If your face doesn’t light up with delight in about two seconds, you probably need to adjust something. If it’s too sour, try adding sugar ? teaspoon at a time till it’s right. The chili flavour should be noticeable but not overpowering. If your tongue burns or you start panting when you taste it, there’s too much chili.
Both these steps can be done well ahead of time.
Just before serving, stir the dressing one more time. Add the sliced green chilies to the fruits, chicken and shrimp. Throw in the dressing and toss well. Garnish with the fried shallots, garlic, peanuts and mint leaves.
Do try making this at home. It may seem like an unusual dish but the amazing combination of hot, sour, sweet, salty, and pungent flavours make this dish truly spectacular. For variations, try different fruits such as oranges, mangoes, melons, etc. Just try to aim for contrast in colour, texture, and flavour.