With the early evening sun setting, but the day still warm from its hours-long dose of heat, I found myself craving food from a tropical clime. I settled on pad Thai and then went hunting for a salad to serve on the side, preferably one that combined my favorite flavors: pungent fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and a bit of spice. I found a wild mushroom salad in David Thompson's Thai Food and set out to make it.
Though Thompson's measurements are metric (he's Australian) and his directions at times pretentious ("Serve sprinkled with ground roasted rice." Huh? What's that and how do I make it?) silly ("Cut into attractive slices.") or overly vague ("...simmer until cooked.") the salad was simple enough to make. I ended up with a great heap of fragrant woodsy mushrooms in shades of straw and velvet brown, purple coins of shallot, bright green ridged mint leaves and torn cilantro tossed in a dressing that blended hot, sour, salty and sweet to a warm summer's eve perfection. If I were a beer drinking gal, a Singha would be just the thing, the sweat beading on my upper lip in sync with the moisture beading on the cold bottle. (Not that I sweat. I glow. And not that it's really very hot in San Francisco, but hey, a girl can dream, can't she? I choose to dream of beaches.)
Wild Mushroom Salad (yam het bpa)
Yield: 4 servings
5 oz. of assorted wild mushrooms (I used shitake, oyster and a few buttons thrown in for good measure.)
2 TBSP chicken or fish stock
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
3 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 TBSP fish sauce
large pinch of crushed red pepper
2 large shallots, sliced
handful of mint and cilantro, diced
1 TBSP chopped scallion
1/3 cucumber, sliced
1. Clean and chop the mushrooms. (Thompson indicates "attractive pieces;" I just hacked away till they were bite size. I mean, how attractive can they really be?)
2. Heat the stock, salt and sugar over medium until just boiling. Add mushrooms and simmer till cooked, about 5-10 minutes depending on the varieties you chose.
3. Remove from heat and tip into salad bowl with juices. Add lime juice, fish sauce, crushed red pepper, shallots, mint, cilantro, scallion and cucumber. If you have the energy or desire, garnish with additional whole mint and cilantro leaves. Note: eat this within an hour or so of making it, otherwise you risk the mushrooms becoming sodden, since they will absorb the sauce.