I read CNNGo’s list of the worl’d 50 most delicious foods with much joy and pride, mainly because a number of Asian delicacies, especially those of my home country and country of residence made it to that list. And although I might not agree with them on everything, I do agree that Massaman curry (their #1) is absolutely delicious, and so is som tam, which made it to #46 of the list.
And coincidentally, this is the same thing I’m going to attempt from Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Good Reasons to Sit down to Eat
– the Easy Thai Salad
. It’s rather ubiquitous here in Singapore and Malaysia, and is rea
lly easy to whip up considering that we would probably have most, if not all the ingredients in our kitchen. I remember when I was in Thailand, I would order the Thai Mango Salad or Papaya Salad (generally referred to as Som Tam (ส้มตำ)) as a starter each and every time because it really “wakes up your palate”, or what the Chinese call 开胃, literally ‘opening your appetite’.
What I love about som tams in general is that they are slightly spicy, slightly sweet and slightly sour, with lots of crunch and and different textures, and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. I have to say that I was slightly doubtful given that this was an Asian recipe written by a non-Asian, but Reynaud got it right :] For this recipe, I omitted the prawns, scallions and vermicelli as I wanted the salad to accompany my meal which contained chicken, and I didn’t want it to be overly filling. This recipe really is flexible, in fact, all that is constant is perhaps the “sauce” – you can do a fruit som tam if you wish!
|Components of the salad before mixing them together :]
As with my vacherin post, the recipe below is from the book, but do note my modifications below!
Easy Thai Salad
200g chicken breast fillet
2 bulb spring onions
3 garlic cloves
1 celery stalk
1 bird’s eye chilli
300g rice vermicelli
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tbl fish sauce
3 tbl sunflower oil
1 tbl lemon juice
200g fresh-shelled prawns
- Chop the chicken breast into small cubes, cook it in boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Peel the carrots, shred them finely.
- Slice the spring onions and celery, peel and finely chop the garlic and chilli.
- Cook the vermicelli according to the instructions on the packet.
- Combine the sugar, fish sauce, sunflower oil, lemon juice, garlic and chilli.
- Mix all ingredients with the prawns.
General comments: As with most of Reynaud’s recipes, his instructions are rather brief. Some changes I would have made were to shred the chicken breast instead of cubing them, and boiling them first, followed by the prawns, and finally the vermicelli.
Taste: For a more authentic Thai meal, do use palm sugar instead of normal granulated sugar. Some additions I would suggest, which I added in my salad would be a couple of dried shrimp, as well as chopped peanuts as garnishing. If you have a mortar and pestle, do pound the garlic and chillies (I used more than 1) together to ‘release’ the flavors, and gradually add the others. Do use lime juice instead lemon juice if possible, and add a couple of tomatoes, green papayas and tamarind juice to the mix for a more “thai” flavor.
Storage: This salad stores well in the fridge for 1-2 days only, because the vegetables tend to lose their crispness. Best to consume right after, once you’ve combined the paste together with the vegetables.
|A vegetarian Thai Salad (minus the fish sauce of course)
Well, there is a reason why som tam made it to the list, and seriously, besides fish sauce, most of the ingredients are really easily available, especially if you’re located in Southeast Asia. If you’re not, fret not – I bet the Asian grocer nearest you will definitely have fish sauce, as it’s a commonly used condiment not only in Thai but in other cuisines as well. If you are trying to recreate what you’ve eaten in Thailand, do note the suggestions I have made. I didn’t have the opportunity to use my mortar and pestle which is located back home in Malaysia, so I had to make do, but the salad still tasted good.
If you’re a cook and you have problems deciding what to cook everyday, I highly suggest buying Reynaud’s book – (I’m not paid to say this) – I find that although this book is pitched to an audience of more experienced chef (for instance the preparation time for this salad stated 10 minutes but I took a lot longer than that just to chop my veggies) and his instructions are sometimes brief, looking at the recipes each day does give you inspiration to cook, and indeed, reasons for you to sit down to eat :]