As I have stated a bunch before I love Vietnamese food. I will also say I have had this next dish in a restaurant before and liked it…so even though this recipe was a fail for me, it could have been my technique or it could have been the actual recipe I was following.
The recipe comes from cookbook Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan. The recipe was for Green Papaya Salad. In the text before the recipe Phan describes how this salad is very common in Vietnam and the markets will sell all the ingredients prepped and ready to go so they can be bought and assembled at home. Taking that idea I decided to prep all the ingredients and bring them to work and assemble at work for my lunch.
The only thing I didn’t do in this recipe was fry tofu and cut it into strips. I have a huge hatred of tofu. I justify not using tofu in this recipe because Phan says that the fried tofu is not authentic to the dish in Vietnam.
So, to start off with I took a large green papaya and julienned it. I started by julienning with my scary mandoline, but finished with a knife after I feared my fingers getting eaten off. I placed all the papaya strips into bag.
I took some rau ram (which is an Asian herb, said to taste like a mix of cilantro and spearment) which I bought from my new favorite Asian Market in Windsor, MultiFoods, and I roughly chopped it. I placed the chopped rau ram in a bag.
I took an English cucumber, halved it lengthwise and then cut crosswise into thin half moons. I took 2 stalks of celery, sliced them thinly. I placed the cucumber and celery in a bag.
Next I took a carrot and cut it into matchsticks. I then put the matchsticks in a jar with a pickling solution of white vinegar, sugar and kosher salt. The jar was put in the refrigerator and in the morning before I left for work I drained the carrots and placed them into a bag.
I then went to work on created a flavored fish sauce. I took fish sauce and added sugar, lemon juice, garlic and chili pepper. I put the sauce in the fridge.
In the morning before I went to work I made fried shallots (since Phan said they are best used the day they are made). I thinly sliced shallots and put them into canola oil at as close to 275 degrees as I could.
When they started to brown after 8-10 minutes I removed the shallots using a slotted spoon and let them drain on a paper towel.
Then I increased the heat of the oil and put the shallots back in the oil for a few seconds. I strained the shallots from the oil using a mesh colander.
I drained the shallots further on paper towel before packaging them up with all the other ingredients. I took 2 TB of the strained oil and also wrapped that up in my lunch bag.
At work during lunch time I assembled my salad by mixing the papaya, rau ram, cucumber, celery and pickled carrots. I then poured the flavored fish sauce and shallot oil over the mound of salad. I garnished with some chopped peanuts and the fried shallots.
The Verdict: The first few bites of the salad I thought it was great. But then I didn’t want to eat it anymore. I wouldn’t say it was too flavorful but maybe I would say it was weird flavorful. So I didn’t come close to finishing the salad and I think I will get the salad from a Vietnamese restaurant whenever I want it again.