Salads are important and unique part of the Vietnamese cuisine. The Vietnamese treasure fresh, crunchy vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots, and seasonal specialties. Simple but tasty dressings enhance the flavors of each ingredient, and salads are often garnished with fresh mint leaves or fresh coriander. Meat, seafood, or noodles may be added as well, making a salad as light or as substantial as the cook desires. Sesame seeds and fresh coriander dress up a dish of shrimp salad.

Shrimp Salad

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and grated
2 tsp. sugar
3 c. water
1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined*, or 1 lb. frozen shrimp, thawed
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. lime juice or white vinegar
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped, or 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
fresh coriander for garnish (optional)

*If you use fresh shrimp for this recipe, you may be able to have it peeled and deveined at the grocery store. Otherwise, you can do it yourself. Hold the shrimp so that the underside is facing you. Starting at the head, use your fingers to peel off the shell from the head toward the tail. Then, using a sharp knife, carefully make a shallow cut all the way down the middle of the back. Hold the shrimp under cold running water to rinse out the dark vein.

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine cucumber, carrots, and 1 tsp. sugar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan, bring 3 c. water to a boil over high heat. Add shrimp and boil 3 to 4 minutes, or until tender, bright pink, and curled tightly. Drain well in a colander and set aside in a covered dish.

3. Place cucumber-carrot mixture in a colander and drain well. Return to mixing bowl. Add shrimp and stir.

4. In a small bowl, combine 1 tsp. sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and pepper. Stir well and pour over shrimp and vegetable mixture.

5. Place sesame seeds in a small skillet without oil. Cook 1 to 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently until seeds are golden. Set pan aside.

6. Place salad on a serving plate and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve cold or at room temperature.

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves 4