A simply delicious salad with culinary inspirations from Thailand and the Far East. I’ve termed it as a salad but quite frankly, it can even be eaten as an entree or a side accompaniment to any meal. I ate this salad in my mom’s friend’s home on my visit to Mumbai, India, she is a wonderful cook. I decided to replicate the same here in my kitchen in San Francsico, with a few changes and variations of my own. With Chinatown walking distance from my home, I picked up most of the ingredients from the produce stores there. I tell you, I would love to explore every nook and cranny of the shops there, especially the ones overflowing with fresh greens and all the wonderful flavourful sauces and ingredients imperative in any Asian meal. Mind you, we even get fresh vegetables there common with our Indian cooking, like ridge gourd(tori), okra, bitter gourd(karela) and good ‘ol lauki or bottle gourd, honestly, most of which we all hate to eat except maybe fried karela!:-). Before I deviate more from the topic and go on about the wonders and hidden treasures of Chinatown, let me get back to the salad….
So, most of the ingredients are easy to find nowadays in any of the big supermarkets and local grocery stores. Fresh mint, fresh waterscress, fresh green coriander and green onions, lemongrass, peanuts, garlic and rice vermicelli. Along with some fried shrimp and fried shallots for some crunch and added excitement to your taste buds! My daughter, in fact we all love anything fried in our food! I fried the shrimp in a batter using rice flour, all purpose flour and ice cold water, quite similar to a tempura batter. And finally, not to forget a wonderful, lemony dressing or vinaigrette, to get the salad going and add refreshing flavours to tingle your tastebuds:-)
Dried rice vermicelli – 8 ounces
Fresh medium size shrimp, cleaned and deveined – Around 10 to 12
Shallots – 2, finely sliced
Roasted and crushed peanuts – 1/4 cup
Fresh mint – 1/2 cup, chopped
Fresh coriander leaves -1/4 cup, chopped
Green chillies – 1 finely chopped. Opt for a Thai bird chilli for extra heat
Garlic – 2, finely sliced
Green onions – 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Rice flour – 1 cup
All purpose flour – 1/2 cup
Ice cold water – enough to make a pancake-consistency paste
Salt, to taste
Oil, for frying the shrimp
Freshly squeezed lemon juice – 1 large lemon
Lemongrass – I took the easy way out by added 1/2 tsp of lemongrass paste which is available in a tube at our grocery store. If using fresh, infuse the dressing with it and remove before serving. Or just add fresh lime or lemon zest.
Soy sauce – 2 tbsp.
Sesame oil – 1/2 tsp.
Freshly squeezed ginger juice – 1 tsp. simply grate some fresh ginger and squeeze out the juice with your fingers
Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp.
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients together. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the vermicelli noodles and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside. There are also some brands of vermicelli available nowadays which just require to be soaked in hot water for a few minutes. Please follow package directions.
Heat oil in a deep fryer or pan, enough to deep fry the fried ingredients for the salad. Add the shallots, fry till they start turning golden brown, remove and set aside. Similarly, fry the garlic for a few seconds till crisp and light brown. For the shrimp batter, add the flour, rice flour, cold water and salt in a bowl. Lightly mix, if there are a few small lumps, it’s fine. Do not over mix. Pat the shrimps dry. Add to the batter and deep fry for 2-3 minutes, till shrimps curl up and turn a light golden brown. Set aside on a paper towel lined plate,to drain any excess oil.
In a large salad bowl, add all the fresh herbs and ingredients, except the shrimp, garlic, peanuts and shallots. Add the vermicelli. Add the vinaigrette and toss well. Garnish with the fried shrimps, shallots, peanuts and fried garlic. The salad is ready to be served!