This is a cold dish that is remarkably simple to prepare but very high in flavor. When I was a child in Thailand our maids used to make this all the time but the strong flavors didn’t appeal to me in my youth and sadly, I didn’t like it. But the flavor was hard to forget and when I was reminiscing with my younger brother about the dishes we remembered most from Thailand, I remembered this one and got a strange craving for it. After discussing this with our friend Tu (a former Thai restaurant owner) I came up with the recipe below which might not be exactly what our maids made, but the flavor sure is the same. This is a very authentic Thai dish that can be eaten as a main course or as an appetizer with smaller portions.
Our first (and perhaps most important) ingredient is our glass noodles.
You can get these at almost any Asian market. The ones I have here are made in Korea but they are almost always made with sweet potato starch, no matter the country of origin. Cooking the noodles is simple. Boil for 5 minutes, drain and then rinse with cold water. I prefer to then soak them in an ice water bath to get them even colder. I will use this whole 12 oz package.
Now for the meat you can cook your own. If you do, you have to add in the time to chill your meat after it is coooked. Here I am taking a shortcut and using frozen precooked salad shrimp. So named because it’s usually used in shrimp salad 😉
I will use about a half pound of these thawed. Toss these in with your chilled, cooked noodles.
Above are Japanese black sesame seeds used in making sushi. Again, this will be sold by your local asian grocer. I like these because they have a pleasant texture as well as a roasted sesame taste that ads character to our salad. But these have to be roasted in a pan for about 5-6 minutes before being used to release that flavor.
You don’t need a lot of heat. I am using my smallest burner here.
For the rest of the ingredients you will want cilantro (extremely important), Thai chili peppers, green onions, lime juice, fish sauce and some chopped nuts for texture as well as flavor (I prefer cashews).
Not shown are the thai chilis, julienned cucumber, edamame and cashew nuts. But above we have our garlic, lime, scallions, cilantro and fish sauce. I will sautee 2-3 minced cloves of garlic in 4 tablespoons of oil until golden. Then take the oil and garlic off the heat and put into a cool ceramic bowl. Mix in the juice of one or two lime wedges (to taste), 2-4 tablespoons of fish sauce (to taste), and 2-8 thai chili peppers sliced thin (to taste) as well as 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil and whisk together. That will be our dressing.
Now if you are one of those people that simply cannot abide cilantro you can substiture parsley for it but it will drastically change the flavor profile of the dish. I will mince up 1 dry measure cup of cilantro, 1/2 cup of scallions and toss these into the noodles. Lastly I will toss in the dressing and cashews and then top with the roasted black sesame seeds. In my plate below I also have edamame (soybeans) and some seaweed. I have omitted the seaweed in my recipe below but you can use that if you can get your hands on some.
Two warnings I will give here. One is if you decide to use commercial salad seaweed, they use dyes in that which can stain your glass noodles. Especially if you chill your salad in the fridge for a while before eating it. The other caution is if you store any left over portion overnight, the glass noodles will cloud over. It won’t affect the flavor but your dish won’t have as pretty of a presentation.
This is a very strongly flavored salad with shrimp, cilantro, lime and fish sauce giving forward notes and finishing with the heat from the chilis. Once you’ve had this dish for the first time, any time you remember it your mouth will curiously water, regardless of your fondness for it. I am at a loss to explain why. I truly disliked this dish as a child but as an adult, I get an awful craving for it sometimes.
Here is the recipe:
Thai Glass Noodle Salad (Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer)
- 12 oz package glass vermicelli noodles
- 8 oz frozen mini precooked salad shrimp
- 1/2 cup chopped cashews
- 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup green onions
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup shelled, cooked edamame beans (soybeans)
- 1/2 cup julienned cucumber
- 2-3 garlic cloves minced
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2-4 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
- 2-10 Thai chili peppers thinly sliced (to taste)
- 1/4 tsp sesame oil
- Juice of 1-3 lime wedges (to taste)
- Thaw the frozen shrimp for 1-2 hours before starting.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles for 5 minutes.
- While the noodles are cooking, sautee the minced garlic in the oil in a separate pan until golden. Remove the oil and garlic to a bowl and whisk in the fish sauce, chili peppers, lime juice and sesame oil. This is our dressing
- Drain the noodles and rinse well with cold water.
- Roast the black sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until fragrant.
- Toss the noodles with the shrimp, cucumber, cashews, cilantro, soybeans and scallions.
- Drizzle the dressing over the noodles and toss well.
- Serve in salad bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds.