As we write and reflect today, September 11, 2011, I can’t help but be reminded of what those of us who gathered for our 20th annual North & East Neighborhood Picnic experienced yesterday as we assembled together with old and new friends on the grassy lawn of our neighborhood park… community. I well remember the sense of national pride and unity that joined together the peoples of our country following the terrorist attacks on our nation a decade ago today. How delightful it was to walk through the park gates, our arms laden with fare for the buffet table, enjoying the wafting aromas of hotdogs being grilled nearby… and seeing the smiles on everyone’s face in anticipation of a fun day together. The day reminded me of the Sunday afternoon picnics and socials I enjoyed so much as a youngster back in the Midwest. Great food, great fun and laughter, great fellowship, great people and great neighbors… could life possibly be any better!
Prior to the day of the picnic our kitchen debate was, “What shall we bring?” We considered several prospective versions of potato salad but ultimately decided to create something completely different… and perhaps a bit daring! Our platter of Vietnamese Shrimp and Glass Noodle Salad was huge and, depending upon its reception, we thought perhaps we might have a bit to take back home for a light evening dinner. No such luck! As we prepared to leave the park later in the afternoon I walked to the buffet table to retrieve the platter, only to discover that the only things remaining in the dish were the serving tongs, one small lone shrimp, two short pieces of glass noodles and a couple of drops of dressing!
This delicious salad is a visual and textural delight… as well as being a light and refreshing palate-pleaser. Dayton and I both suspect that the unsuspected ingredient to the success of this salad is the use of fish sauce in the dressing, a flavorful concoction with a culinary history than spans centuries and had its roots set down during the times of the Roman Empire. Used judiciously it is a sauce to be respected for the flavor it brings to dressings such as this! Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in numerous cultures in Southeast Asia and features heavily in Vietnamese cuisine.
Vietnamese Shrimp and Glass Noodle Salad
For the dressing, combine in a medium-sized bowl:
4-5 fresh red chiles, seeded and finely minced
- 4 – 5 whole peeled large garlic cloves, microplaned
- 4 T grated fresh ginger
- 8 T fish sauce
- 2 fresh limes, juiced
- 8 T cold water
- 2 T granulated sugar
- 1 – 1/2 T peanut oil
- 1 – 1/2 T sesame oil
Mix ingredients well to incorporate.
Chef’s Note: For the dressing we used nu’o’c mam, a THREE CRABS Brand ® fish sauce, readily found in Asian markets or the Asian food section of your local supermarket. Also, the dressing can be used immediately but we suggest preparing it a day in advance to allow the flavors to meld.
To prepare the salad, first bring a kettle of water to a boil to quickly blanch the snow peas. Place in a colander in the sink:
6 – 8 oz sugar snap peas, stemmed and de-threaded
While the water is coming to a boil, place in a pan and cover completely with cold water:
8 – 10 oz glass noodles
Allow the glass noodles to soak for ar least 20 minutes.
Chef’s Note: Glass noodles are a type of transparent noodle made from starch, such as mung bean starch, yam, potato starch, cassava or canna starch. When cooked, glass noodles resemble cellophane and are very clear and translucent. They are generally round and are available in various thicknesses.
When the water has come to a boil pour it over the snow peas then immediately refresh them under running cold water until cool. Allow to drain well. When drained julienne them finely on the diagonal:
Slice into thin circles:
- 1 bunch green onions, both white and green portions
Chef’s Note: It’s not necessary but we recommend running your chef’s knife through the green onions several times once they’ve been sliced. We’ve discovered that the more finely chopped onions make for a more attractive finished salad, as well as distribution of flavor.
2 medium zucchini, sliced into matchsticks
While the glass noodles are soaking bring a large pot of water to a boil in which to cook them. Salt the water, drain the noodles and place them in the pot with:
1 T extra virgin olive oil
When the water returns to a boil, cook the noodles for 4 minutes. Drain them in a large sieve, turning them with a pair of tongs under briskly running cold water to cool them as quickly as possible:
Allow the noodles to drain well. In the meantime place in a medium bowl:
- 8 – 10 oz cooked small shrimp
To the shrimp add:
- 3/4 C of the prepared dressing
While the shrimp are marinating check the noodles to determine how well they have drained. Do not allow them to dry to the point that they become sticky and adhere in clumps. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl and add approximately half of the remaining Vietnamese dressing. The best way to toss the noodles at this point is with your clean hands!
Chef’s Note: The strands of noodles are quite long and, in order to make mixing AND serving as easy as possible wash and dry a kitchen scissors before you start tossing the noodles and use it to snip the occasional handful of noodles until you are satisfied with the overall length as tossing is continued.
To the bowl add:
the snow peas
the zucchini matchsticks
the coarsely chopped green onions
the marinated shrimp with dressing
8 oz bean sprouts
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 bunch fresh mint, coarsely chopped
Add the remaining Vietnamese dressing, mix well, transfer to a large bowl or platter for service. Serve immediately!
Not only is this dish delicious, it is versatile. Since we had no leftovers to enjoy for last night’s late supper following our neighborhood picnic I mixed up another batch of dressing and cut into julienne strips leftover grill-roasted beef waiting in the fridge to be used. Served on a bed of chopped iceberg lettuce for crunch, it was a delicious variation… Bon Appetit!
©2011 Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved