I mentioned a few times before how special Gỏi is and how different it is than salad here and here. This particular dish has a rather special place in my heart because I once lost some seriously chubby, Asian poundage eating it every week for about 6 months [insert legal disclaimer] as part of a healthy, balanced diet that included plenty of exercise.
Many people, particularly women, gain the notorious Freshman 15 in college. For me, it was more like Freshman 30+. When you’re not even 5 feet tall, that ain’t right, man. Of course, it didn’t help that Asian people (like my parents and their friends) are blunt, careless jerks who will not hesitate to say, “Wow – you so fat and ugly! What da hell happen?”
After many failed attempts at low-carbing, de-toxing, Atkins, etc., I realized that white people’s diets were not going to work for me. I looked at my mom and my cousins and saw that they kept their trim figures by eating healthy, Vietnamese food and by getting out and moving about everyday. They didn’t deprive themselves of food they liked but they understood and practiced portion control and moderation. Another thing they didn’t have was a guilt complex with food. If they had a high calorie or fatty snack/meal, they would enjoy it and balance it with other healthy food and exercise.
I started to eat Vietnamese food again, particularly Vietnamese salad (Gỏi ) - on a regular basis. This proved to be a wise choice as Gỏi can be so varied and interesting; thus I did and have not become bored with eating the same ol’ nappy salad for lunch/dinner — I didn’t *fall off the wagon*. Coupled with regular exercise, I lost almost 30 of those crazy pounds (okay, that number’s fudged a bit since last Thanksgiving, but hey…)
GỞI DƯA LEO – VIETNAMESE CUCUMBER SALAD WITH SHRIMP AND PORK –
AKA THE SALAD THAT SHAVED SERIOUS POUNDAGE OFF MY BUM
INGREDIENTS (2-4 servings):
- 2 large English cucumbers (approx. 2.2 lbs/1 kg), cut into very thin *half moons*
- 1 Tbl. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 lb. (225g) pork shoulder, poached and then cut into thin strips (the size of matchsticks)
- 1/2 lb. (225g) shrimp (I use the 31/40 size), poached with their shells on and then peeled once cooked
- 1 large carrot, finely grated
- large handful of peanuts, roasted and crushed
- 1 Tbl. freshly toasted white sesame seeds
- large handful of Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), stems removed
SAUCE/DRESSING FOR SALAD:
- 2 red chilies (Thai bird)
- 1 garlic clove
- juice of 1 large lime
- 2 Tbl. sugar (+ more to taste)
- 2 Tbl. fish sauce
- 1/4 cup water
Make your dressing by smashing the chilies and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Add the sugar, lime, fish sauce and water. Mix thoroughly to dissolve all the sugar. Taste and add more sugar/fish sauce/lime according to your preference. Set aside.
Using a sharp knife, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise or and if you have a Japanese Mandoline, use that to then slice it into thin half moons. Add them to a large bowl and toss with the salt and sugar. Allow to sit for at least 1/2 an hour. The salt will cause the cucumbers to weep their water.
Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients – the pork, shrimp, carrot and garnishes (peanuts, sesame seeds and herbs). Drain the cucumbers and rinse well with water. Next, take a handful of the cucumbers and squeeze and ring out as much liquid as you can. (A potato ricer will also do a nice job of this step.) Mix all the drained and squeezed cucumbers with carrot, pork, shrimp and herbs. Right before serving, toss with the dressing and garnish with the sesame seeds and peanuts. (Preparing the cucumbers this way wilts them but I find them a nice textural contrast to the crisp carrots and tender pork and shrimp and crunchy peanuts.)
I want to leave you with a few photos I took on Sunday in downtown Ann Arbor where the 2008 Festifools took place. FestiFools brings students and community volunteers together to create unique public art (mostly large, papier mâché ) that is free and accessible to everyone. It was a glorious day with blue skies and warm weather. You can also view some fabulous photos from the festival’s official photographer, Myra Klarman, here.