Disclaimer: This is supposed to be a very simple salad. The one we’re making here has a bit of extras to make it fancier. But stripped down, you can just mix together mangoes, dried shrimp, cilantro and salad dressing.
Vietnamese mango salad (gỏi xoài) is a vibrant dish featuring green mangoes, shrimp, and is highlighted with fresh herbs like mint, thai basil and cilantro. It’s a mouth-watering combination of sweet, sour, salty with lots of contrasts in texture.
Also, there’s no fixed combo of herbs or veggies neither. Use whichever of these herbs you have on hand, add or don’t add cucumbers. Substitute bell peppers for the carrots for color. You get the picture.
Admittedly the mangoes I used here are obviously not “green”–and that’s okay! These are Kent mangoes and they appear yellow even when unripe. Kents are less fibrous, so a great choice for salad when they’re available in the summer.
If you can’t find Kent, the other commonly available mango varieties from Mexico or Thailand will do just fine. There’s a common variety of mango available from India too. This one’s really green looking, more sour than the others (maybe you’re into that!) and is available year-round.
In Vietnam, lots of mangos varieties are available for making salad with. One type is xoài tượng, weighing in at about 2-4 pounds and about the size of a papaya.
How to Devein and Prepare Shrimp
Buy headless shrimp with the tail on. If you’re buying frozen shrimp, defrost by soaking in water. Choose a size labeled 36/40 or 31/35. These numbers refer to the number of shrimp in a pound (e.g. 36/40 means 36 to 40 shrimp in one pound).
Dry then devein the shrimp. This “vein” is the intestinal tract. Intestinal tract = poop. Lots of people don’t care and leave it in, and will call you a pansy for removing it. I say, let them eat what they want, but I’m deveining my shrimp.
In one of my older recipes for gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese spring rolls), I painstakingly deveined by splitting the shrimp along the entire body with a knife. Luckily I found a much quicker way to do this: by making a small cut in the shrimp’s back towards the head then just pulling the vein out.
Here’s 40 seconds of unadulterated (and silent) shrimp deveining:
Then boil water with some 1/2 teaspoons salt until it hits a boil. Drop in the pound of shrimp in and let it hit a boil again. When they turn slightly pink, drain and put it over ice to stop it from cooking any further.
Fry up Shrimp Chips
Those puffy crackers in the pictures are called bánh phồng tôm, or shrimp chips. These come packaged in stacks of small dry disks which expand about 4x in size when you throw em in the fryer.
“Roast” the Peanuts
If you are buying raw peanuts, you gotta toast them before crushing for use as a topping. A much quicker method is to use the microwave. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with 1 layer of peanuts (not so crowded that they stack). Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat this process for about 2 minutes for 1/2 cup of peanuts until they are ‘roasted’: a bit browned and crunchy. They come out tasting exactly the same as if you were to babysit these roasting in an oven.
Pickle the Vegetables
You can follow my recipe to make the pickled carrots and daikon ahead of time. But in a pinch, you can make a quick pickle to eat in about an hour.
Just combine enough to cover the veggies: 1 part sugar, 1 part vinegar, and 1 part water.
Then soak the julienned veggies in it for about an hour. Add the cucumber towards the last half so it doesn’t get too soggy.
- 1 large unripened mango (about 1.5 pounds with the seed), julienned
- 1 carrot (mainly for color), julienned
- 1 cup daikon, julienned
- 1 cucumber, seeded and julienned
- ½ pound medium shrimp (31/35 or 36/40 size)
- red onion, raw and thinly sliced (optional)
Herbs & Garnish (all optional)
- shrimp chips
- deep fried shallots
- roasted peanuts, crushed
- mint, thai basil, cilantro, stems removed and roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup fish sauce
- ⅓ cup lime juice
- ½ cup water
- sliced Thai chiles
- OXO swivel peeler
- Benriner Japanese mandolin slicer
- safety gloves (crucial when using a mandolin slicer)
Prepare the mango and veggies
- Peel mangoes and veggies.
- Remove seeds from cucumber and mango, then julienne everything.
Make a quick pickle
- If you don’t already have pickled daikon and carrots ready, make a quick pickle. Mix equal parts water, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl, enough to cover the veggies.
- Add carrots and daikon to the bowl for 40 minutes.
- Add cucumbers to the bowl for the last 20 minutes. Drain when ready to mix the salad.
Prepare the shrimp
- Defrost frozen shrimp in water, dry, then devein
- Bring a pot of water with 1 tsp salt to a boil on high heat.
- Add shrimp until they turn slightly pink, then drain and put over ice to prevent it from cooking further. Remove shrimp shells and tails.
Toss & garnish
- Mix ingredients for the salad dressing.
- Mix all ingredients, add dressing to taste, and serve and enjoy immediately.
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