This is a recipe of memories, inspirations and substitutions.
The original recipe came via Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, his trip around S E Asia to cook and eat old favourites and discover new ones (I’d like his job!!). The series and book are a delight, the recipes are mouth-wateringly good – the flavours of lime, lemongrass, galangal, the heat of chillies the sweet of coconut milk.
Combine this with a food memory, of meals at a local Thai restaurant that would start with appetisers, Thai style Hors d’oeuvre if you will. You could choose from bowls of fried cashew nuts liberally salted and with slices of red chilli; or a platter to share – a melange of vegetables and condiments all there to awaken your tastebuds and build up to the main meal. The platter would be artfully arranged with portions of finely sliced shallots, ginger, chillies, lemongrass, garlic, Taking a pinch of each and rolling them in a lettuce leaf. And then there was my favourite Hors d’oeuvre a combination of sweet and sour – a dish of smoked fish and pink grapefruit.
And I’ve always wondered what the smoked fish was and this is where Rick Stein and David Thompson come in; Stein recreated a Cambodian salad “Spicy green mango salad with smoked fish and a sweet and sour dressing” back home using smoked mackerel. Now combine this with a dip into David Thompson’s Thai Food, where he writes of Ma Hor and Miang’s of ground fish served with fruit. And off we go!
So we have the memories and the inspirations, now for the substitutions. The original recipe calls for a green mango, but I can’t get green mangoes locally. Besides let’s think local and not bother importing green mangoes. A quick search online and I read about using apples as a replacement. Now I realise the two things are very different in flavour and texture, but having now made this salad several times I’m convinced the switch to apple works and works supremely well.
The only special ingredient that this recipe calls for is Fish Sauce, quintessentially SE Asian in flavour, it seems to be used in everything giving a background flavour – omnipresent of you will. Use it in small amounts or it will overwhelm. I buy it from a local Asian food shop or when in here in France from Grand Frais supermarket, so it’s widely available. Once opened store it in the fridge and it will keep for an eternity.
If you like fish, raw veggies, Tha style salads, give this a go. It bursts and pops in your mouth. Flavour abounds. It makes a great starter or a main. More bonus points or convincing needed? It’s pretty cheap, very quick and probably healthy 🙂 I say probably as you do fry the fish, but don’t be tempted to skip this bit, it makes ALL the difference in terms of texture and flavour. Talking of the fish I buy locally smoked Mackerel when I’m at home in Hastings but I realise not everyone is as lucky as I am so not to worry the ones you buy prepacked in the supermarkets are still excellent.
You can prepare the fish earlier but this salad needs to be made just as you are about to eat and the amounts here serve two as a large starter.
Njham svay trey heu – Cambodian Smoked Fish Salad
- 1 filet (2 pieces) of smoked mackerel, skinned
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1 green sharp apple (not a sweet red one) cored, peeled and grated
- 1 carrot, peeled and grated
- 1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 red chilli, finely sliced
- A handful of dry roasted/fried peanuts, roughly chopped
- Dressing –
- 2 tsp palm sugar (or soft brown sugar)
- 1 tbs fish sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- A few leaves of Thai sweet/holy basil or coriander to serve
- Flake the mackerel into small pieces.
- Heat some vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan until hot
- Add the mackerel to the oil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the fish is crispy.
- Drain the fish on some paper towels to take the excess oil away, and leave to cool.
- In a small bowl make the dressing by adding the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice – whisk them so they are combined.
- In a salad bowl add the fish, grated apple and carrot, the sliced shallot and chilli
- Now add the dressing a bit at a time and mix it into the fish and salad. Don’t drown the salad just coat it.
- Sprinkle some fresh Thai Holy Basil or Coriander over the top to serve.