Thai Melon Salad

Thai Melon Salad
It’s that time of year where the melons are packed with flavor and available in abundance.  This salad holds a special place in my heart (and stomach).  When my kids were young we challenged their palettes, presenting dishes that stretched their horizons and allowed us all to eat the same meal.  (I won’t get into the nature/nurture discussion here - we were lucky/blessed to have nature on our side)

Thai melon salad was one such dish.  It’s visually striking but challenges our assumptions about fruit and flavor pairings.  The acidic bite of fresh lime juice lends a sour note while the fish sauce provides an unexpected pungency and flavor enhancing sodium.  The fruity heat of the serrano pepper is overshadowed by the sweetness of the fruit but pops through in an occasional but arresting manner.  Cilantro and mint lend their distinctive flavors while crushed peanuts provide a textural break and much needed crunch.

In short, it’s a total mouth party.

This dish quickly became a favorite in the house and I often used it as the thin edge of the wedge when introducing other dishes.  “We are going to have fish eyeballs tonight!”  “Ewwww”  “and thai melon salad…”  “Sweet when do we eat?”

One year for man-son’s birthday (5 or 6 years old) I offered to cook favorites for a friend that was coming over.  The menu was Thai melon salad and pad kra pao (Thai chicken basil).  Son 1 digs into the salad with gusto and finally looks up at his friend “Do you like it?”  Guest-son sets down his fork, wipes salad remnants from his lips and proclaims “It smells disgusting but is really good!"

And there you have it.

I first encountered this recipe when Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Finnegar joined Julia Child on Cooking with Master Chefs ( or

I’ve adapted the recipe over time for simplicity while retaining the flavor punch. Enjoy


  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tbs palm sugar (brown is an acceptable substitute)
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1/2 - 1 - 2 serrano peppers - sliced paper thin (adjust for preference but don’t neglect)
  • 1/4 cup minced/torn cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced/torn mint
  • 3-4 kaffir lime leaves (buy locally at asian market) or 1 tbsp of minced lime zest
  • 1/2 cup peanuts - chunky crush
  • 2 cups cantaloupe
  • 2 cups watermelon
  • 2 cups honeydew melon


  1. combine all ingredients except fruit and nuts into bowl, mix well
  2. when ready to serve, drizzle dressing over fruit and top with crushed peanuts

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