A salad that’s filling enough to be enjoyed as a main dish. The salty-tangy-sweet dressing is fortified with the flavors and aromas of traditional Thai ingredients that include galangal, kaffir lime and its leaves, lemongrass, cilantro, chilies and palm sugar.
The first time I made Thai glass noodle salad, I thought it was pretty good. There was heat from the chilies, sweetness from the sugar, tang from the lime juice and saltiness from the fish sauce. I made it based on a recipe from a cookbook written by an American. Little did I realize how watered down the flavors were to appeal to the white man’s palate.
It took a trip to Chiang Mai to realize how bland — how utterly lacking — my old glass noodle salad was. It’s not that I didn’t get the balance of flavors wrong the first time. The problem was the lack of depth.
In Thailand, glass noodle salad is a really hot dish. And I don’t mean it’s served at a high temperature. No, it’s served at room temperature as most salads are. By “hot”, I mean spicy hot. I could manage only a few mouthfuls but that was enough to get a whiff of what seemed to be so many spices and herbs in the dressing.
In time, I learned to make better glass noodle salad. Good enough to decide to update the old recipe.
Thai Glass Noodle Salad (Yum Woon Sen)Recipe by
- 120 grams glass noodles
- 1 large stalk lemongrass (or two small stalks) white part only with the fibrous outer layers peeled off and discarded
- 2 Thai chilies (we used one red and one green)
- 2 half-inch pieces kaffir lime zest
- 1 pair kaffir lime leaves ribs removed and discarded
- 3 slices galangal if using dried, pre-soak in hot water until softened
- 2 bunches cilantro roots
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar
- ¼ cup lime juice (kaffir limes were used here)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- ¼ cup salted peanuts roughly chopped
- Place the glass noodles in a bowl and pour in hot water to cover the noodles completely. Leave to soak for about 20 minutes.
Make the dressing
- While the noodles soak, place the lemongrass, chilies, kaffir lime zest and leaves, galangal, cilantro roots and palm sugar in a mortar.
- Use a pestle to grind them as finely as you can.
- Pour in the lime juice and fish sauce, and mix thoroughly.
- Leave the dressing to steep.
Cook the sausage meat and shrimps
- Discard the casings of the sausages and crumble the meat into a frying pan.
- Cook the sausage meat until lightly browned.
- Add the shrimps and cook, tossing often, until both sausage meat and shrimps are cooked through.
Cook the glass noodles
- In a pot boil about four cups of water.
- Drain the noodles and dump into the boiling water. Cook for two minutes.
- Drain the noodles and dump into a mixing bowl.
Toss the salad
- Strain the dressing.
- Add the sausage meat and shrimps to the noodles.
- Pour in half of the dressing and toss thoroughly.
- Add the sliced shallots and tomatoes.
- Pour in the rest of the dressing and toss.
- Add the Thai basil and cilantro, and toss again.
- Transfer the salad into a serving bowl.
- Sprinkle with more chili slices, if you want added heat.
- Ladle into bowls and sprinkle in salted peanuts before serving.