Excerpted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table: Recipes and Reminiscences from Vietnam's Best Market Kitchens, Street Cafes, and Home Cooks by Mai Pham (Morrow Cookbooks, 2001). © 2001 by Mai Pham. Used with permission.
This salad epitomizes the Vietnamese love of contrasting flavors and textures. The tartness of the dressing brings out the smoky, salty flavors of the shrimp and the peanuts add crunch and nuttiness. If you can't find green papaya, substitute with white cabbage.
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Thai bird or 1/2 Serrano chili, chopped
5 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2/3 pound medium raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 medium green papaya, peeled and shredded into thin long strands (about 4 cups), rinsed and spun dry
1/3 thinly shredded carrots, soaked in cold water and drained
1/3 cup Asian basil leaves, cut in thirds
2 tablespoons fried shallots
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
1. For the dressing, combine the garlic, chilies, 4 teaspoons sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and water in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Place the remaining sugar, lemongrass, shallots, chili flakes, salt and oil in a mixing bowl and stir well. Add the shrimp; toss gently and allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Grill or pan-sear the shrimp in an oiled skillet over high heat until just done, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Put the cooked shrimp, shredded papaya, carrots, basil and fried shallots in a mixing bowl. Add the dressing and toss gently to evenly coat all ingredients. Sprinkle the peanuts into the bowl, then toss and transfer to a serving dish.