Simone Appetit: Pla Goong (Thai spicy shrimp salad)
There are some foods and/or products with names so unappetizing they should be followed by an asterisk if they want to develop any kind of fan base.
For instance “Borscht” (a delicious summer soup of Russian origin made with beets and served cold) sounds a little too close to “worse.” Likewise, “bratwurst” (a savory grilling sausage) brings to mind a kid who put gum in my hair when I tried to take his picture for an article.
Don’t even get me started on “eau de toilette” which requires two asterisks, one for “*toilet water” and then another, like a disclaimer, “*a lightly scented perfume.”
Some foreign delicacies, however, require complete name changes if they hope to gain global appeal. My favorite candy of all is a Swedish confection called “Plopps.” ‘Nuff said.
Which brings us to Pla Goong when, said quickly, kind of makes you want to look at the bottom of your shoe. But what’s in a name? I’ll tell you. This Thai salad is spicy, refreshing, light, colorful and bursting with a great mix of flavors.
Trust me, Pla Goong will become a household name once you have served it.
1 lb. medium or large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2 cups of water for boiling shrimp
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, discard tough outer layer, thinly sliced
1 tsp. chili paste (Look for Nam Prik Pao. I know. Bad name. Needs asterisk.)
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tsp. shallot, thinly sliced
2 tsp. green onion/scallion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red sweet pepper, thinly sliced
1⁄3 cup cilantro leaves with some stems, roughly chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves
Cook the shrimp: Boil the 2 cups of water in a medium pot, over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and boil until they are gently cooked, and not overcooked: about 4 minutes for medium shrimp and 5 minutes for large. Drain and place in a bowl.
In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, add the chili paste, soy sauce and lime juice. Mix well. Let the liquid come to a boil and remove the pan from the heat.
Add the shrimp to the pan and mix well with the sauce mixture. Add the red pepper flakes, shallots, green onion, sweet pepper, cilantro and half of the mint leaves. Mix all ingredients well. Taste. It should be spicy, salty, sour and a little sweet.
You should let the mixture sit for a few minutes for the flavor to develop before tasting and adjusting. Pour it on a serving plate and garnish with the rest of the mint leaves. Enjoy!
Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen “must-haves” and food news at email@example.com.
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