Samui Wining & Dining
Thai Recipe

Lemongrass Salad - Yam Takhrai.

Lemongrass Salad - Yam Takhrai.Ask almost anyone from the west to define what a salad is and they’ll come up with a list of raw vegetables, usually featuring lettuce and finally some sort of dressing to make everything tasty. It’s a staple that many of us have grown up with, and which many of us feel we should eat for health reasons. Rarely cited as a favourite dish by anyone, a salad is usually an accompaniment to a main course; salad, at least in the west, seems to be forever doomed to playing second fiddle.

However, in Thailand, a salad is a very different proposition. It may not even faintly resemble its western counterpart, with looks and flavours that are worlds apart. Raw food aficionados may well even feel a bit let down, as many Thai salads get their main tastes from cooked ingredients. Perhaps there should even be a different, less misleading word to describe these dishes – are they really salads at all? But it’s too late for that; Thai cuisine is famed throughout the world, and already all names are set in culinary stone, and the word ‘salad’ is used to describe food that’s made in four different ways. ‘Yam’ is one of them. Not to be confused with the vegetable of the same name, ‘yam’ simply means ‘mixed’. This month’s recipe features a mix using ‘takhrai’ or lemongrass. Yam however can be made with a huge variety of ingredients, and many different combinations of protein, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices can be used. The main ingredient or ingredients can be raw, fermented, sun-dried, smoked, steamed, boiled, grilled, baked or fried. A basic yam recipe also tends to rely on sliced fresh shallots or onions, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chillies.

The salad that follows is quite easy to make, but it may take several attempts before you get it to your liking. This is because it’s an art to balance the different flavours. So above all, don’t be afraid to taste as you go, and to keep on tasting. The recipe calls for lots of lemongrass, but you can use less if you want to. Or even more. It’s surprising how many people cook Thai food without ever using lemongrass. It’s easy to prepare and adds quite a bit of pizzazz to whatever you're making. And as a bonus, it’s incredibly good for you.

Ingredients:

• 12 stalks of lemongrass
• 2 tsp lime juice
• 8 prawns, shelled and deveined
• 5 tbsp of finely sliced shallots
• ½ cup of fried cashew nuts
• ½ cup of dried shrimps
• ¼ cup of mint leaves
• Ingredients: for the dressing:
• ¼ cup of lime juice
• 2 ½ tbsp fish sauce
• 1 tbsp sugar syrup
• 6 bird’s eyes chillies, finely sliced

Method:

Wash the lemongrass then cut off the bottom half centimetre and peel away the fibrous outer layers. Use only the lower third of the stems, which you should thinly slice and then toss with the lime juice.

Boil a large pot of water and then blanch the prawns – they should be just cooked. Drain them carefully until all the water is gone and set aside to cool.

Next, turn your attention to the dressing. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar syrup. Then stir in the chillies. The most important step is to adjust the taste according to your own likes. Aim to balance spiciness, sweetness, saltiness and sourness.

Lastly, in a mixing bowl, combine the lemongrass, prawns and shallots. Add the dressing and toss well. Fold in the cashew nuts, dried shrimps and the mint leaves. The salad is now ready to serve. Accompany with lettuce or place on a bed of red cabbage and let your guests enjoy the salad either as a side or a light, summery main dish.

          

Dimitri Waring



 


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