Alabama might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of Vietnamese shrimp salad. But at Ollie Irene in Mountain Brook, Alabama, chef Chris Newsome wants to change your mind. Newsome hews closely to the traditional recipe, loading his version with Thai basil, daikon and carrots. (He does leave out green papaya as the fruit is hard to find in Mountain Brook). The shrimp are poached with the shells on to retain as much of their moisture and flavor as possible; the result is a salad that's bright and fresh and packed with flavor.
Ginger-Lime Shrimp Salad
Recipe adapted from Chris Newsome, Ollie Irene, Mountain Brook, AL
Yield: Serves 6
Cook Time: 5 minutes
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, scraped
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 pound (21-25 count) shell-on shrimp (preferably Gulf shrimp)
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks
½ medium daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks
¼ medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
9 basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced crosswise (preferably Thai basil)
4 scallions (both light green and white parts), trimmed and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ small Thai chile or jalepeño, finely chopped
¼ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1. In a blender, combine the ginger, vinegar and fish sauce and mix on high speed until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Pour the ginger-vinegar mixture into a small bowl and refrigerate until cool.
2. Bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil and add the shrimp. Poach until cooked through, about 1 to 1½ minutes. Drain in a colander or fine-mesh sieve; once the shrimp are cool enough to handle, remove the shells and devein the shrimp.
3. In a large serving bowl, toss the carrot, cucumber, daikon, red onion, basil, scallions, cilantro and mint. Stir the lime juice and chile into the chilled ginger-vinegar dressing and then pour the dressing over the vegetables. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Sprinkle with peanuts and serve.