Yes, I know. Objection noted, and ignored.
So, you already read about my salad. Well, I liked it so much, I set out to streamline it. That’s code for losing the lettuce. And then it hit me: why don’t I just get rid of the lettuce? The mango, too, since I had already eaten the other one. That left me with snap peas and Thai basil, which, if I may be honest here, was all I really wanted in the first place.
But, I owe you the dressing recipe, and I’m pretty sure I heard the sound of a hundred gag reflexes at my mention of fish sauce in the dressing. You were very polite not to vomit all over my comment section. In case you don’t know, fish sauce is the essence of a thousand fermented anchovies, and, come to find out, some people don’t like anchovies. Especially in salads.
Hear me out.
The dressing was inspired by the Elephant Walk, the local French-Cambodian restaurant that I fell hard for as a starving college student back when it occupied its mystical basement space in Union Square, Somerville. I still have a soft spot for those flavors (lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves), which seemed so exotic and magical at the time. Luckily, one of their restaurants is right down the street from me. Also, they have a cookbook. Their secret: to make liberal use of fish sauce.
I was making their famed Loc Lac, garlic- and soy-marinated cubes of beef in lime sauce (which is ridiculously easy, by the way), with sticky rice. No fish sauce in there. But, I needed something green and crunchy to go with it. I peeked into their cookbook and saw a recipe for dressing. After a little bit of streamlining, it was just the thing.
Sprightly Pea Salad
2 handfuls sugar snap pea pods (you can destring them, but I usually don’t bother)
1 Tbsp. Thai basil, rolled up and sliced into ribbony strips
1 clove garlic, minced
½ Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
½ Tbsp. water
Pinch of sugar or two
Generous grind of black pepper
Toss pea pods and basil in a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, water, sugar, and pepper. When sugar is dissolved, pour over peas to lightly dress.
Note: If you can’t find Thai basil, regular basil is fine or, even better, basil and mint in equal amounts.
Another note: Fish sauce can usually be found in the Asian section of your supermarket. It comes in big bottles, like Squid brand (not made of squid) or Golden Boy (with the giant creepy baby on the front). Just, whatever you do, don’t smell it. No, I said DON’T smell it. Geez.