I’ve never foraged for anything. The closest I’ve come is trying to convince a friend that I should be making a salad from the weeds in her lawn. Foraging sounds like so much fun, getting up early while the ground is still covered in a light dew and hunting down natures bounty. I’ve noticed some people harvesting ginko nuts in Central Park, they were squatting under a tree with some plastic bags while a miniature soccer ball rolled in the dust near by, this image doesn’t fit into my romantic misty covered morning foraging picture. My foraging dream world involves cute boots, an adorable spring jacket, a gleaming machete to get through the thick under bush and an enthusiastic hound. With my priorities in the right places it’s probably best I don’t forage for fiddlehead ferns, as certain ferns should not be eaten and may cause digestive problems or perhaps death. The most commonly eaten fiddlehead fern is the ostrich fern which in my limited experience has yet to kill me.
I played around with the cooking times for the fiddleheads and a blanch saute method works best for the flavor. If left under cooked they have a bitter green taste which overpowers the dish. I love my vegetables a little crunchy and was worried about the longer cooking time for the fiddleheads but they hold up to the heat quite well. The undercooked version did have more bite to it but the bitterness (and possible poisoning) had me leaning towards longer cooking times.
This Thai style Pork Larb Salad uses a little chicken stock to cook the minced pork which gives the dish a light refreshing flavor. It’s done in a large saute pan but the addition of of stock keeps the meat from browning. The resulting dish is a warm Thai salad that compliments the fiddleheads with the addition of chilies and lime. The dish is refreshing and light, spicy yet cool from the mint with a hint of roasted savoriness and crunch from the rice.
Spicy Thai Fiddlehead Mint Salad Recipe
- ¼ pound or 125 grams of fiddlehead ferns
- ½ pound or 250 grams ground pork
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 Thai chilies
- 1 tbsp white rice
- juice of 2 limes
- ¼ cup mint leaves
- ¼ cup cilantro
- 3 tbsp chicken stock
- pinch sugar
- dash white pepper
- 1 Garlic clove
Roast the rice in a dry pan over medium heat for 5 minutes until golden and toasty. Set aside to cool. Once cooled pound in a mortar and pestle until very fine.
Clean fiddlehead ferns by removing any brown papery skin, then rinse in clean water to dislodge any bits that remain. Trim any browned edges or bottoms.
Blanch the fiddleheads in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and run under cool water.
In a large hot pan add chicken stock, deseeded finely sliced chilies, minced garlic, and pork. Stir and add fiddleheads. Cook stirring lightly for 4 minutes over high heat until pork is cooked through but not browned. Remove from heat, add sugar, white pepper, fish sauce and lime juice. Spoon onto a large plate and sprinkle roasted rice over the top and dress with cilantro and mint leaves. Serve immediately.