Prik nam pla is the name of that little bowl of spicy, tangy, slightly sweet sauce on tables at Thai restaurants. The essential components are fish sauce, lime juice, chiles, and a touch of sweetener.Here, a version of that super-simple formula serves as a dressing for a light and lively whole-meal salad of rice noodles (often sold as pad thai noodles), shrimp, and a few vegetables and herbs. It’s based on one in Nigel Slater’s “A Cook’s Book.” Serves 2-3. RECIPE HERE– Susan Puckett
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine, found in Asian food sections)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- Juice of 2 or 3 limes (about 6 tablespoons)
- 1 minced chile pepper (Thai, serrano, or whatever you have), or dried red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 minced garlic clove (optional)
- 8 ounces peeled, large raw shrimp
- ½ medium cucumber, peeled
- 1 small carrot, grated (optional)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
- 4 ounces flat rice noodles (as for pad thai)
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the fish sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, chile or pepper flakes, and garlic (if desired.) Add the shrimp, toss to coat, and set it aside for about 30 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water according to package directions; drain in a colander.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. With a slotted spoon, add the shrimp, reserving the marinade, and let them cook for 2 minutes, just until they turn pink.
- Remove the shrimp to a large bowl and set aside. Then pour the marinade into the empty skillet and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes until it’s reduced by about half.
- Add the drained noodles to the bowl, along with the cucumbers, carrot (if using), cilantro, and mint. Pour the hot marinade over the mixture and toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.