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Burmese Gin Thoke Melon Salad

Makes 6 servings
If it's melon season, you have to make this. In Burma (Myanmar), gin thoke, meaning "ginger mix," is a blend of crispy fried garlic, sesame seeds, and ginger, and is eaten as a sweet digestive snack after meals. Although not native to the region, melons are a refreshing and delicious complement to this dressing, together making a perfect summertime side dish. The ginger is key to this salad. Ideally, the gingerroot should be so young that the skin is almost transparent and the roots are tipped with pink.
Published in Gourmet Live 08.08.12

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 small seedless watermelon (2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 ripe cantaloupe melon (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 ripe honeydew melon (1 pound)
  • 2 (3-inch) pieces young ginger,* peeled and minced (1/3 cup); or 2 (3-inch) pieces regular fresh ginger, peeled and minced (1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (from 3 to 4 limes)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • 2 cups wide-flake unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups blanched raw peanuts
  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, chopped**

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Start by cutting up the melons: Trim off the rind of all 3 melons, remove any seeds, and cut the flesh into 1/2-­inch dice. Put all of the diced melon in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the ginger, sesame seeds, lime juice, soy sauce, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Mix well and pour over the melon. Toss, and let marinate at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  • Put the lentils and 4 cups cold water in a small saucepan set over high heat, and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook for 5 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain, rinse with cold water to chill, and then stir into the melon mixture.
  • Combine the coconut, peanuts, kaffir lime, remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large sauté pan. Toast the peanut mixture over medium-­low heat, stirring it constantly, until the coconut and peanuts have toasted, somewhat unevenly, to a golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • Just before serving, add the peanut mixture to the melon mixture and stir gently to combine. Serve in a large bowl, preferably at room temperature.
* Young ginger: Found in Asia, young ginger has a very white, almost transparent skin, with root ends that are tinted pink. With juicy flesh and very few fibers, it is ideal for eating raw. The taste is more delicate and milder than that of mature ginger.
** Kaffir lime leaf: A thorny bush with aromatic, hourglass-shaped leaves, common to Southeast Asia, kaffir lime has an intense and unique pepper-lime flavor. It is also called "kieffer lime," "makrut," or "magrood." If you can't find it, you can substitute grated lime zest.
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