There are many variations for a spicy Thai shrimp salad with noodles, but it is really the sauce (dressing) that delivers the flavor and pulls all the ingredients together into a spicy, sweet, sour, and pungent taste bite that is uniquely Thai!
I would suggest making the sauce first and don’t be timid after tasting. Cranking up the seasoning a bit you may think is being overly adventurous, but once it is tossed with the salad ingredients you will realize that the more assertive the flavor the better and the key to success here!
Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad with Rice Noodles serves 4
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed kaffir lime juice + ½ teaspoon zest
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
- ¾ tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated garlic
- 5-6 small pointed (very hot) green chillies, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh coriander leaves
- ¼ teaspoon fermented shrimp paste heated in a spoon until melted
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (nahm pla) + more to taste
- 2 to 3 teaspoons palm sugar (or white sugar)
- 5 tablespoons coconut cream + 1 tablespoon more to taste (Chaokoh brand widely available)
Combine all the ingredients, omitting 1 teaspoon palm sugar, 1 tablespoon coconut cream, and additional fish sauce, in a non-reactive bowl. Whisk until completely emulsified. Taste and add the remaining teaspoon palm sugar, tablespoon of coconut cream,and additional fish sauce to taste. Adding additional palm sugar and coconut cream will soften the citrus bite of the sauce, and additional fish sauce will add saltiness. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
For the Salad:
- 24 medium shrimp, head and tail attached
- 3 cups mixed salad; iceberg, baby cos (romaine), shredded cabbage, or your preferences
- ½ cup thinly sliced large red Asian shallots (or red onion)
- 1 cup thinly sliced carrot julienne
- ¼ cup small celery leaves
- ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
- 2 large fresh red chillies, seeded and sliced
- 8oz/225g dry thin rice vermicelli (Thai san mee or Chinese mi fun)
24 small cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts coarsely ground (optional)
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the whole shrimp. Once the water comes back to a boil, cook 1 minute, turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes. Then transfer the shrimp to a colander to drain. Once the shrimp is cool enough to handle, remove the heads, legs, and shells, leaving the tails attached. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate to use later.
Place the lettuces in a large bowl. Add the shallots, carrots, celery leaves, coriander leaves, and red chillies. Toss everything together and refrigerate.
Meanwhile soak the vermicelli in warm water, turning frequently with tongs, for several minutes until softened, but not sticky. Transfer to a colander to drain, separating the noodles with the fingers so they don’t stick together.
If you plan to serve the salad on a platter dress the mixed salad ingredients generously with the sauce and toss to coat evenly.
Place the softened vermicelli in another bowl, separating any strands that may sticking together. Add the shrimp and tomatoes. Dress generously with the sauce and toss to coat evenly.
Place the dressed salad ingredients on the platter and scatter the dressed vermicelli, shrimp and tomatoes over the salad. Using your hands, nestle the vermicelli, shrimp, and tomatoes into and over the salad ingredients. Spoon additional sauce over all and sprinkle the ground peanuts (if using) over the salad and serve.
If you are going to serve the salad individually it is best to follow the above instructions using a small bowl to combine the ingredients for each portion separately. Garnish with the ground peanuts (if using) once the salad is plated.
Suggested: This salad works beautifully with the addition of sliced firm mango or sectioned pommelo, or even grapefruit if pommelo is not available. (see here)