Place the garlic and salt in a large mortar and pound together. Or place them in a large bowl and use the back of a flat spoon to mash them against the side of the bowl. Add the fresh chile, if using, the mint, and the scallions and continue to pound or mash to soften and blend. Add the tomatoes and gently pound or mash until borken up a little. Add the chile oil and toss well. Serve the salad mounded in a shallow bowl, with the juices poured over.;
Heat the oil in a wok or skillet. As soon as it starts to smoke, toss in the chile flakes, taking care not to splash yourself, and remove from the heat. Let stand until completely cool, then transfer to a clean dry glass jar and store in a cool place. If you wish, in several days you can strain out the chiles and store them separately or discard them, leaving you with just a gleaming orange spicy-hot oil.
Recipe courtesy of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid