*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this post.
When I was a little girl, my favorite tree in my grandparents’ garden was a mango tree in front of their kitchen. Their kitchen, which looked like a hut, was separate from the house. I remember doing the dishes in the open washing area, looking up at the tree full of green mangoes, wondering when they would be ripe so I could eat them every day, many times a day. I am surprised my skin didn’t turn orange with all of the delicious mangoes that I managed to eat in season.
Mangoes are so emblematic of southeast Asian food and enjoyment of life. They are a perfect food, delicious right off the tree and meant to be eaten in season and at whatever ripeness you prefer. Like many Vietnamese, a perfect dessert to me is not ice-cream or cakes, but rather some juicy sweet mango slices. Mangoes are delicious in savory dishes, too, adding a sweetness and tartness to balance salty or umami flavors.
Vietnamese shrimp and mango salad is so easy to prepare but such a signature plate to put in front of your friends or family or even eating on your own. It is so simple and light and reliant only on the flavors that nature provides in the freshest ingredients.
Mangoes go perfect with mint. In the Vietnamese language, herbs are called literally “vegetables that smell good.” Mint is no exception and fresh mint on its own is a pleasure to eat. When paired with tart, sweet mango, salty shrimp and crunchy peanuts, the smell and complex flavors of the mint are like a crescendo in an orchestra, bringing you to a peak of enjoyment with the eating of a leaf with every few bites.
This salad is a very common dish in Vietnam, particularly in beer gardens, where it is seen as the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of beer on a sunny day. Check out the video below to see how I make it.
VIETNAMESE SHRIMP & MANGO SALAD
- 1 medium-ripe mango (sweet and crunchy); otherwise a ripe one will work too.
- 1 lb shrimp (any size will do, but I personally prefer jumbo)
- 1/2 – 1 cup chopped roasted peanuts
- 5 – 8 mint leaves
For the dressing: stir well 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon chopped chili pepper (optional)
- Pare, pit and julienne the mango. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, boil water deep enough to cover the shrimp.
- Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water.
- When the water boils, add shrimp. Cover the lid and bring to a boil over medium high heat. When it boils, open the lid, cook for 2 more minutes, then turn off heat.
- Put shrimp into the bowl of ice water (to make it firm and keep the color bright pink) for about 10 minutes until it cools down.
- Peel and devein the shrimp.
- Put shrimp and mango in a salad bowl.
- Right before serving, drizzle the dressing over mango and shrimp, add chopped peanuts and mint. Toss and serve.