Red onions add crunch to pasta salad

Genevieve Ko
Los Angeles Times

Onions might seem a perennial ingredient since they’re available all year, but red onions taste especially fresh and crisp now. We’re nearing the end of the harvest, but these purple bulbs are still coming straight out of the ground and into our kitchens right now, so they don’t have the harsh bite, dry petals or papery skins older onions develop.

To highlight red onions’ mild sweetness and crunch, toss thin slivers raw into pasta salad. When tossed warm with a Thai-inspired fish sauce vinaigrette, the pasta stays tender and soaks up the sauce’s spicy, savory tang. Red onion brightens the mix, while pork jerky adds heft and saves the hassle of cooking meat. Ribbons of red cabbage take this dish into September and beyond and turn this into a hearty yet light meal.

Thai Pork Jerky Pasta Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Note: This salad is delicious with any pork or beef jerky, especially Asian-flavored varieties. For the tastiest version, seek out freshly made, deep-fried pork jerky at a Thai market. While you’re there, get fresh Thai lime leaves. They deliver an herbaceous bite without wilting like most leafy herbs. If you can’t find them, substitute the freshly grated zest of one lime or two very thinly sliced fresh bay leaves.

Kosher salt

1 pound fusilli or other short pasta

3 Thai bird or other small hot chiles, seeded, if desired, and minced

5 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

3 tablespoons fish sauce

11/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

5 tablespoons everyday extra-virgin olive oil

12 ounces pork jerky, preferably Thai, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced

1/2 small red cabbage, diced

8 fresh Thai lime leaves, veins removed and very thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

While the pasta cooks, whisk the chiles, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and olive oil in a large bowl. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse under cold water until just warm. Shake dry in the colander, then immediately transfer to the sauce. Toss until well-coated.

Add the pork, onion, cabbage and lime leaves, mix well and serve.

The pasta salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days. Bring to room temperature to serve.


Roast Pork Pasta Salad: Substitute char siu (Chinese roast pork) for the pork jerky.

Tofu Pasta Salad: Substitute Thai marinated and deep-fried tofu for the pork jerky.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad: Substitute cooked rice noodles for the fusilli.