This salad is served at the Slanted Door Restaurant in San Francisco.  Talk about scenic! This iconic Vietnamese restaurant is located beneath the Bay Bridge, right on the San Francisco Bay.  Whenever I travel to San Francisco (my home town), I stop at the Slanted Door, grab a seat at the bar, order this salad, a glass of Austrian riesling and if I'm really hungry, some Shaking Beef.  This salad has everything - the hydrating sweetness of the papaya and cucumber, the crunch of celery and fried tofu, the acidic bite of pickled carrots, the saltiness of peanuts, perfume of cilantro and mint, and the definite Southeast Asian notes in the dressing.  It's great to serve family style, and will hold overnight (without its dressing), covered in the refrigerator.  Green papayas are essentially underripe fruit so look for a firm green one in your market.  Salads like this require a little elbow grease (so worth it!); I've included suggestions for what you can prep the day before.

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What you’ll need

Sharp knife and vegetable peeler

Frying pan

Glass bowl or jar


●      ½ cup distilled white vinegar

●      ½ cup sugar

●      ½ tsp kosher salt

●      1 cup julienned carrots (easy: purchase shredded carrots instead)

●      6 ounces medium firm tofu, weighted down, patted dry and cut ½ inch thick planks

●      Canola, vegetable or peanut oil

●      2 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly

●      1 large green papaya (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded and julienned (cut into 1/4 big slices, then those cut into 1/4" noodle-like strips)

●      2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

●      ½ English cucumber, julienned (you can use a vegetable peeler to make  thin strips, then cut those into thinner noodle-like pieces)

●      ½ cup each coarsely chopped cilantro and mint

●      ¾ cup flavored fish sauce* (see recipe below)

●      1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped


The day before..........

 Pickle the Carrots

·       Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl. Stir until solids are dissolved. Add the carrots and let stand for 30 minutes. These can be stored in their pickling liquid for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Fry the Tofu

·       Heat 2 cups of canola oil in a saucepan until 350 degrees. Carefully add the tofu squares and turn once or twice until deep golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Once cool, cut into ¼” wide strips.

Make the Shallot Oil and Fried Shallots

·       Heat the oil to 275 and fry the shallots until light golden, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels until almost ready to serve. Then reheat the oil to 375 and fry the shallots for 1-2 seconds until deep brown. Return to paper towels to drain. These can be made a day or 2 early and stored in an airtight container.  Make sure to strain and reserve the shallot frying oil for the recipe. (KIDDOCJJ tip: a quick substitution is using fried onions that are typically used in Thanksgiving casseroles, and subbing purchased  garlic oil instead of the shallot oil)

Make the Flavored Fish Sauce

·       ½ cup fish sauce

·       1/3 cup sugar

·       ¼ cup distilled white vinegar

·       ½ cup water

·       2 cloves garlic, finely minced

·       1 – 2 Thai chilis, stemmed and minced

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar and water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the garlic and chili and stir until combined. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

The day of..........

1.    In a large mixing bowl combine the fried tofu, papaya, celery, cucumber, mint, cilantro and drained pickled carrots.

2.    Pour the flavored fish sauce and a couple of tablespoons of the shallot oil over the top and toss to coat evenly.

3.    Garnish with the peanuts, cilantro, top with fried shallots and serve immediately.