I like guavas alright, but if you saw my fruit basket you’d think that I have some kind of an obsession with them. I don’t know what it is, but I seem to always have a few knocking about the house. I prefer the pink-fleshed ones to the white, but to be honest, that’s got purely to do with aesthetics rather than the taste difference between the two. Use any kind you prefer or have on hand. The only thing to keep in mind is to use them when they’re still slightly underripe. (By that I mean light green skins as opposed to dark green in their completely underripe stage; maybe 2-3 days away from being soft and yellow.)
The inspiration for this salad comes from a guava salad that I ate at a Burmese restaurant in Bangalore. It was punchy with chilli, and shallots, and peanuts, and had some interesting tangy-sweet notes in there that I couldn’t quite dissect and put my finger on at the time. This is a riff on that recipe made from taste memory and a bit of an internet deep-dive to fill in those missing blanks. Disclaimer: It didn’t end up tasting quite like the one I ate at the restaurant. BUT it’s definitely one that I’ll be making over and over again. So basically there are two guava salads that I can eat and enjoy now. I’m not mad about it.
A few outlier elements really make this dish. (Shallow) fried shallots and garlic are great in any and all forms, agreed, but have you thought to use them in a salad? Well, here we are. And gram flour (kadalamaavu/besan) is the other unexpected ingredient here that makes this dish so special. The gram flour is toasted in a dry pan until it goes a deep brown colour and takes on a nutty, aromatic flavour. When the salad is tossed together with the rest of the ingredients—guavas, fried shallots and garlic, sugar, chilli flakes, and lime juice—there’s enough moisture in there to make sure the gram flour clings to the surface of the guavas. This provides textural contrast with a subtle background nuttiness with every bite. There’s chilli flakes for heat, lime juice for acidity and freshness, and sugar to offset and round up everything nicely. Textures, flavours, the rare novelty of a savoury fruit salad, it’s all a big yes from me.
BURMESE-STYLE GUAVA SALAD
- 4-5 guavas about 500 grams (see notes)
- ⅓ cup shallots or 2 onions, cut into slivers
- 5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp gram flour (see notes)
- 2 1/2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp toasted peanuts
- 1 tbsp sugar, or to taste
- 2 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
- 1 ½ tsp lime juice, or to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Crush the peanuts in a pestle and mortar or pulse them in a blender for a few seconds. Set aside.
- Toast the gram flour in a dry pan until it starts to colour, about 3-4 mins. Move it around frequently with a spatula to make sure it doesn’t burn. Once it gets to a slightly darker shade of brown and starts to smell nutty, remove from heat and set aside.
- Wipe down the same pan for the shallots. Add the oil and fry the shallots until they brown and crisp up. When they're nearly there, add the garlic and lightly brown. Drain on paper towels.
- Prep the guavas: Halve the guavas. Use a spoon to hollow out the seeds. Discard the seeds. Slice the guavas into thin wedges.
- Toss the guavas, toasted gram flour, fried shallots and garlic, sugar, chilli flakes, lime juice, and salt in a bowl. Use your hands to toss everything together. Taste and adjust seasoning. Top with the crushed peanuts and serve.