If you read my last post about my trip to Vietnam, you will remember my going to Cooking School in the town of Hoi An. The class began with a visit to the Central Market, a hurly burly of a place with vendors selling everything from housewares to live crabs. After having been guided through the lively market, we set off to the school which was a pleasant walk away.
“Morning Glory Cooking School” is the most well-known of Hoi An’s cooking schools. Set on the second floor of a restaurant, these bright and airy classrooms are a joy to work in. Our instruction, Ms Lu, has been working for her boss, Ms Vy, since she was 14 years old. Some of the tales of her early employment were excruciating. Imagine spending an entire 8 or 9 or 10-hour day prepping a single vegetable. Somehow Ms. Lu not only survived, she thrived and she now heads up Morning Glory.
Ms. Lu does have help. Her helpers provided the mise-en-place for the students which is likely the only way our class could have possibly created all four dishes in the time we did. Vietnamese food is no three to five ingredient wonder. Nine ingredients go into this salad, four into its dressing. But I insist this is not at all hard to make. I was greatly aided in its preparation by a strange mandolin-like knife that I bought in Hoi An, pictured here. You first use it to peel the Green Mango. Then you make vertical cuts with a regular blade. The Vietnamese knife then makes matchsticks as you slice through the mango. If you don’t possess one of these knives, simply peel the mango, then slice it into pieces and make matchsticks out of the pieces.
Once I got home, I recreated the dish. There’s a new Korean Market at Broadway and 110th St. so I trundled up there to get what I needed to make this dish and several more that will be coming your way soon. I found almost all the ingredients we’d used in Vietnam—including the essential Fish Sauce, Nuoc Mam, with a couple of exceptions: Hoi An Chili sauce was nowhere to be found. So I went with Sambal Oelek, Ground Fresh Chili Paste which is easy to find in any Asian section of the supermarket. We’re talking half a teaspoon here so don’t despair if you want to just use hot sauce or tabasco. I am sure I could have made my own Shallot Oil but again the quantity was 1 tablespoon so I substituted Sesame Oil. Finally there was no Vietnamese Mint on hand so I used and abundance of Fresh Mint. I also used the poached shrimp as a garnish on my salad but you can toss the shrimp in with the rest ingredients if you wish to be more authentic. I have to say, the finished salad was a big hit when I served it at dinner. I think this variation on Ms. Vy’s recipe is well worth trying. Here is the recipe:
Ms. Vy's Mango and Prawn Salad
A delightful salad that combines all the elements of Vietnamese cuisine -- sweet,sour,salty,spicy.
- For the Salad:
- 1 Green Mango, sliced into long matchsticks
- 1 cup Onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cups of Mint
- 4 ounces of Shrimp (Prawns) poached for 2 minutes in boiling salted water
- 1 ½ tbsp. Salad Dressing (Recipe follows)
- 2 tsp. Sesame Seeds, roasted
- ½ tsp. Hoi An chili sauce or Sambal Oelek or Hot Sauce
- ¼ tsp. Sea Salt
- Pinch of Coarse Black Pepper
- 1 tbsp. Sesame Oil
- For the Dressing:
- 1 tbsp. Lime Juice
- 1 tbsp. White Sugar
- 1 tsp. Nuoc Mam
- 1 tsp minced garlic and red chili pounded.
- Step 1 In a small bowl, make the salad dressing.
- Step 2 In a large bowl put mango, poached shrimp, onion, one cup of mint, 1 teaspoon of Sesame seeds.
- Step 3 Add dressing to the Mango mix and toss the salad.
- Step 4 Serve on 4 small plates and garnish with the remaining mint and sesame seeds. Season to taste with sea salt and coarse black pepper. Serve.