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Thai Pomelo Salad (Yam Som-O)


Pomelo Salad: Yam Som-O (ยำส้มโอ)

Serves 4


One 1.5- to –lb pomelo, peeled and separated into segments
1 lb 21-26 count shrimp, peeled and deveined
¾ cup desiccated coconut flakes (unsweetened)
½  cup coconut milk
Dried red chile flakes, to taste (I use whole Mexican chile pequin as they are very easy to crumble up with your fingertips and taste just like dried bird’s eye chiles. They’re also very, very cute.)
4 tablespoons finely-minced shallots or onion
2 tablespoon finely-minced garlic
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup plain roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
Fresh lime juice, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste
A handful of Fresh cilantro leaves


In a small saucepan, sauté together the vegetable oil, shallots, garlic, and dried pepper flakes over medium heat until the mixture releases its wonderful aroma and becomes confit-like in consistency. Add the coconut milk into the shallot mixture and heat through; remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a skillet over medium-low heat, dry toast the desiccated coconut flakes until they turn medium brown color. Be careful not to leave the skillet unattended; coconut burns very easily. Set the toasted coconut aside to cool.

Poach the shrimp, drain, and set it aside.

Gently break up the pomelo segments into roughly ½-inch pieces and put them in a large mixing bowl.

Add the poached shrimp, shallot-coconut mixture, toasted coconut flakes, peanuts, and cilantro leaves to the pomelo bowl.

Add to the mixing bowl 2 tablespoons each of the lime juice and fish sauce and toss everything together as gently as you can with your hands. Adjust the seasoning with more lime juice or fish sauce as needed. (If your pomelo is on the tart side, you may want to add just a tiny bit of sugar to counteract the acidity. But usually the subtle, natural sweetness of the toasted coconut and coconut milk is sufficient.)

Serve immediately with additional roasted peanuts and toasted coconut on top, if desired.

Cook’s Notes:

Though quite a few recipe authors suggest grapefruit as a substitute for pomelo, I encourage you to seek out pomelo in Hispanic or Asian stores in your area first. Then, if you absolutely cannot find it, use grapefruit segments, blotted dry with a clean kitchen towel to remove as much juice as possible. (Grapefruit releases a lot of juice and I don’t like a salad that swims in juices.) Navel orange segments can also be used. (But then you can’t really call it Yam Som-O since the Som-O is absent.

Make sure that the roasted peanuts are fresh. Nothing ruins an otherwise good dish like rancid peanuts.

The best way to poach shrimp is in simmering, not furiously boiling, water at the temperature of 160° and 180°F (71–82°C). Be sure to not overcook the shrimp.

Do not substitute lemon juice for lime juice, soy sauce for fish sauce, or sweet coconut flakes for plain desiccated coconut.

To kick it up a notch, add to the mix 2-3 tablespoons of crispy-fried shallots, commercial or homemade.

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23 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Oooh I love pomelo. See, I guess it’s just that they’re more popular here, but I seem to have little trouble finding them! They’re relatively popular this time of year in the groceries. This salad sounds amazing.

  2. Tuty @Scentofspice

    Hi Leela,
    What a beautiful and refreshing salad! It has all the components that I truly can enjoy.
    Thank you for sharing the recipe and great photographs.

  3. The first time I had Yam Som-O was at People’s Palace Thai restaurant in Manila, Philippines, about 2 years ago. After reading Leela’s explanation of this wonderful dish and how it is relatively uncommon in other places, I consider myself quite fortunate! I was so taken by this dish that I attempted to recreate it back home (Minnesota); unfortunately, good pomelos are just as rare. 8-/

    I will continue my search for this fruit and hope to try this recipe!

  4. This should be a most appetizing treat, to perk the tastebuds before the mains. Love how the Thais do their salad, with extra punch from all the tangy/spicy ingredients.

  5. Danielle

    I have recently started seeing Pomelos in our market and had absolutely no clue what to do with one. This recipe is way up my alley. Thank you for sharing one of your treasured recipes with us. This salad is just plain gorgeous!

  6. Bee – Thanks for the letting me wreak havoc on your site. :)

    Judy – This recipe makes 4 generous servings.

    Tangled Noodle – Pomelos have started to pop up in Italian and Hispanic stores where I live. The variety sold at my local Korean store has yellow flesh whereas the kind found at Italian and Hispanic stores has this beautiful dark pink color. Both varieties taste the same, by the way.

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