Yesterday I had to prepare a salad for a pot luck luncheon held at AH’s home where she was preparing to pack up and take off to Shanghai. It was her special way of opening up her home once again so that her friends can come together for one more pot luck before she finally leaves Paris. AH had been an angel to many women during her sojourn in Paris, bringing them joy and laughter whilst still busy decorating her homes (yes, homes), shopping, cooking and taking care of the daily things that mothers and grandmothers have to see to even when their children have grown up, flown the nest and have children of their own. For AH, she has to do this long distance. Think of the logistics this involves, kawan kawan – having to deal with crises in different time zones is mind boggling indeed. Not that AH has many crises to deal with, she is blessed with 4 wonderful and beautiful children and one gorgeous grandson who adores her.
But pot luck lunches are as pot luck lunches are: you have to bring a dish to share! And this being an all Asian ladies pot luck lunch, the dishes had to be Asian, of course, in keeping with the theme. Imagine my excitement, kawan kawan! I was salivating before the lunch hour even approached. Asian pot luck lunches are ze best, in my books! Real McCoy Asian dishes! Yummmmms! What could bring me more joy?
What do I bring? I drew the straw for a veggie dish. Hah! That is really up my street, me being the 5 fruit and veg queen. So I decided to make my version of a Thai shrimp/prawn/gambas salad.
This was what I purchased for the dish:
First, I marinaded the prawns with a clove of minced garlic, Shoashing wine (you can use sherry), chopped coriander/cilantro, a dash of soya sauce and a couple of turns of the salt mill of salt with a squeeze of lime juice from half a citron vert. Look:
I also added a sprinkle of Piment d’Espelette. Remember that? But use chilli flakes if you can’t find the piment. Then I set the prawns aside whilst I washed the salad leaves and chopped up the celery sticks (I used about 6 stalks) and fennel. The fennel is best sliced very thinly.
I also bought some cooked shrimps/prawns/gambas to mix with my raw prawns. I sautéed the raw prawns in some olive oil, adding more Shoashing wine to create a jus. When the prawns were just cooked enough (you don’t want them too cooked), I transferred them to a dish and proceeded to coat the ready cooked prawns with the juices left in the pan. This way the cooked prawns will not taste too bland. I find it quite strange to find prawns that are ready cooked in Europe. I first discovered this when I arrived in England 20 years ago. In Asia, all seafood is sold raw because the point is that you want to cook them yourself, no? In any case, prawns in England, France, Italy and Spain (that is, Europe) come cooked. Raw prawns are more expensive, if you can find them (these days, not difficult) and you have still to cook them, so inconvenient for some people with busy lives. That I can understand. And to be honest, the cooked prawns taste quite good and is an easy ingredient to throw over a salad and into fried rice.
I decided to mix the two types for this salad. Nothing smells as good as raw prawns sautéed with garlic and olive oil. Prawns when cooking just emit this aroma that reminds me of Sunday mornings when my mother is making a stock from the shells and heads of the prawns that she’d washed and prepared for lunch. The stock, which infuses the house with its prawny perfume, she will add to the Hokkien Prawn Noodle that she will be cooking later. That, kawan kawan, is Sunday morning bliss!
Well, as some of you may know, I try to emulate the food smells of Asia as much as I can in my European kitchens, both in London and Paris. And yesterday, my Parisian cuisine smelled almost close to home. This was what I cooked:
That had to be set aside to cool before being added to the salad.
Every salad has to be dressed. The elegance of a salad is in its dressing. To go with the Asian theme, I made a salad dressing from sesame oil, soya sauce, lime juice, black vinegar and sweet Thai chilli. I also added half a teaspoon of my father’s secret recipe chilli sauce. He DHLed me a bottle a month ago and I am taking my time to go through it. This sauce is made from a guarded family recipe which unfortunately I cannot share. Let’s just say that its easy enough to make but you really have to get the proportions of lime juice, sugar, salt, ginger and garlic right. Daddy has made it through the aghak aghak way for many years until he discovered through this guess-guess method that measurements make better chilli sauces. It’s all a science, kawan kawan.
Here are the ingredients for the dressing:
There is no need to add sugar since the Thai chilli is already sweetened. The lime juice is important as limes feature prominently in Thai cuisine. I used half a lime in this dish because there is already Chinese vinegar added. And this is the result:
Don’t forget to toss the salad with the dressing first before adding the prawns. I also retained the prawn juices and added it to the salad to enhance the flavour. I really liked it and so did the ladies who lunched.
I hope you enjoy this wonderfully easy to prepare salad too, kawan kawan. This is the best time of the year to enjoy salads with spring in the air and summer fast approaching. Tell me what you think.