The combination of Thai and Indonesian flavourings produces a fresh-tasting but very spicy salad that is particularly good served at room temperature with grilled scallops. The salad is very easy to make and, because of the high vinegar content, keeps for several days in the fridge.
Large scallops are hard to come by, as most of them are bought by restaurants or exported to France. Buy 3 medium-sized scallops per person, getting your fishmonger to open the shells and detach the meat for you. Never buy frozen or pre-shelled scallops: they just aren’t worth cooking, never mind eating.
More than any other ingredient Thai fish sauce gives that cuisine its characteristic flavour. It can be obtained from most Oriental stores.
Prepare the scallops: detach the corals from the scallops and reserve, freezing for use in your next fish soup. Cut the white flesh in half horizontally.
Prepare the vegetables: quarter the cabbage and cut out the base stalk. Finely shred the leaves • Char the sweet pepper over a flame or under a hot grill. Peel off the blackened skin, deseed and finely shred the flesh • Peel and cut the onion into thin rings •Trim the lemon grass and slice the stalks across into very thin rounds. Then cut these across into fine strips • Cut the chilli peppers in half longitudinally, deseed, then cut each half into 5 strips. Wash the chopping board and knife thoroughly and then your hands immediately. (You will only need to forget this once and rub your eyes or go for a pee to realize why this is good practice) • Peel the ginger and cut it into slices and then into fine strips • Do the same thing with the carrot and the garlic.
Put the rice vermicelli in a bowl, pour over boiling water and leave to soak according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain well.
This may seem rather a demanding Mise en Place, but it is typical of stir-frying, where getting everything ready takes a comparatively long time while the actual cooking needs almost no time at all. It is actually helpful to assemble all the different elements in bowls, like one of those questionable TV cooks.
Heat the vinegar in the saucepan and simmer the lemon grass, lime leaves and chilli . peppers for 5 minutes then set aside.
Heat the wok and when hot put in half the sunflower oil. Add the onion, garlic, pepper, ginger and carrot. Toss and stir. Add the cabbage and toss again. Add the noodles and toss, then quickly pour in the vinegar mixture, the rest of the oil, the soy and fish sauce. Boil, toss and stir. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool.
When ready to serve, chop the coriander and stir it into the salad.
Put the griddle pan to heat. Brush the scallop halves lightly with a little sunflower oil and sear for no more than 30 seconds each side. Longer will toughen them.
Mound the salad on 4 plates and arrange the scallops on top. Dress each with
© 1993 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.