We’re crazy about Thai food. Its artful balance of spicy, sour, sweet, salty, tangy, crunchy, and yummy has us permanently hunting for new Thai recipes and restaurants. We always have Thai chiles in the freezer and often use them in spontaneous ways: our neighbour Krish had us doing chile shooters one night last winter. You bite off half a chile, knock it back with a slug of vodka, and then bite into a wedge of lime. Instant endorphins.
Like the chile shooters, this salad is not for the faint of heart. The baby octopus often twist and contort themselves when they hit the hot grill, and if you’ve never smelled fish sauce before, you’re in for an interesting surprise.
But once this all comes together on the plate, you won’t believe what a brilliant combination of flavours the salad presents – sour mango, fragrant basil, sweet pea, peppery greens, and perfectly charred seafood, all kissed with lemongrass, chile and lime.
Grilled Thai Seafood Salad
adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly book of Main Course Salads. (A really terrific book.)
NOTES: Be sure to cool the seafood before mixing it into the salad, or it will wilt the greens. You can replace the peanut oil with another light-tasting vegetable oil – do not use olive oil, it has too strong a flavour. And don’t be tempted to cut the squid into rings – they fall through the grates of the grill.
for the dressing
2 – 4 small red Thai chiles, seeded and minced
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
1/3 C peanut oil
¼ C finely chopped lemongrass
¼ C lime juice
for the salad
250 g squid hoods
250 g shrimp, deveined and shelled, tails intact
250 g baby octopus, cleaned and halved lengthwise
1 large green mango, sliced into matchstick-sized pieces
250 g sharp greens (we use a mix of mizuna and watercress)
250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
100 g pea sprouts
1 C Thai basil leaves, torn
Shake all the dressing ingredients together in a jar with a lid.
Cut each squid hood open lengthwise, without cutting it in half, so you can open it up and lay it flat. Score it with a knife in a diamond pattern, then cut the hood into bite-sized squares or rectangles. The scoring will help the squid lay flat while grilling. Combine all the seafood in a bowl with half the dressing and marinate for two hours.
Assemble the other salad ingredients in a large bowl, then grill the seafood in batches. Cool the seafood for a few minutes before mixing it into the salad. Dress lightly with some of the remaining vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.