Weekly Salad 13: Gỏi Dưa Leo – Vietnamese Cucumber Salad with Shrimp and Pork…and Some Foolishness


Vietnamese Cucumber Salad


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…)




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


  • 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.)

Bon appétit!


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.


Fesifools 2


20 Responses to “Weekly Salad 13: Gỏi Dưa Leo – Vietnamese Cucumber Salad with Shrimp and Pork…and Some Foolishness”

  1. Wandering Chopsticks Says:

    Huh! I think we have the same family. Gotta love the VNese philosophy of being blunt b/c they love you. You know, as opposed to friends who only say nice things about you.

    Low carb, check.
    Atkins, check.
    Detox, check.

    Goi diet I have not tried. Of course, this is low carbing it as well. Hmm. If I drop 30 lbs, I think you can trademark it.

    “Hi, my name is WC and I lost 30 lbs doing the goi diet. For only $19.95/month in 5 easy payments, I can show you how to trim those excess lbs too!” 😉

  2. snowypeach5 Says:

    omg i SO know what you mean about the vn being blunt! whenever i return to my home town to visit i always get the stare down to see if i’ve gained weight or lost weight and i always get the “you look like you gained weight!!”. i am a mom now so i don’t get as much time to prepare vn food anymore but you’ve just inspired me to try to make more of an effort to make goi. i’ve forgotten how much i love it and i could shed some of this left over baby weight!

  3. Fearless Kitchen Says:

    “Diet” salad or not, this looks tasty and will definitely be entering into our normal weeknight menu (although I’ll have to switch cashews for peanuts.) It has so many of the flavors that we both love, and it looks like it would be a great dinner for weeknights in front of the baseball game.

  4. Mia Says:

    This looks wonderful – I was just thinking I wanted to make a Vietnamese salad for dinner tonight, inspired by a recent trip to the Slanted Door, in San Francisco. I was thinking cabbage and jicama, but this sounds great, too. Do you have any other favorite Vietnamese salad recipes?

  5. holybasil Says:

    WC – hahaha. You’re right — They yell at you and criticize you because they love you (?)

    Yes, let’s get some branding material together and trademark this! $19.99 is a deal, man.

    Seriously, I don’t believe in diets that restrict because I feel trapped by them. They may help to shed some pounds in the beginning but the results aren’t long-lasting because I can’t restrict myself from x,y, or z forever.

    Snowypeach5- Thanks – the salads are a great way to eat healthy and interesting food. As WC says, when they say “You look like you’ve gained weight,” it’s their way of showing you love. Right???

    FK- Thanks – cashews would be great too. Watching baseball and eating Gỏi sound perfect 🙂

    Mia – I also like lotus stem with carrots (GỎI NGÒ SEN) and Green Papaya Salad (GỞI ĐU ĐỦ) – both are linked at the beginning of this post. They’re really great because they have different textures and flavors going on. Cabbage and Jicama sound great too. Throw in some mint or Vietnamese coriander, and you’ve got a salad 🙂

  6. Denise & Lenny Says:

    This looks so good!! I was just telling Lenny we need to make more asian inspired food and then I opened up your very nice comment – and this is what we found. A party in our mouth! YUM!

  7. Kevin Says:

    That salad sounds both tasty and healthy!

  8. Warda Says:

    Love the Dressing! It is so different from the usual olive oil and vinegar. I am known to have bad habits when it comes to diet. I just…don’t eat! Bad! I know!

  9. White On Rice Couple Says:

    No matter what, I’m always the chubby one in the family because of my bigger bones. They “remind” me of this to help me become “skinnier”, but they feed me like a starving beast,”You’re chubby, but…why didn’t you eat my cooking?”. What the?!?
    You’re salad is perfect…it has flavor, protein, crunch and freshness. I could eat this everyday….alongside a bowl of hot steamy rice! Chubby power!!
    How fun the festival looks and I’m so happy that the weather was wonderful!

  10. Jen Says:

    I’ve done crazy ARPs in the past that resulted in fast weight loss and desire to eat small children walking past. The best thing for me is regular and intense exercise. However, my diet is happiest when I am eating a ton of fresh fruits, veggies, and seafood. If I could eat salads like the gorgeous plate you have here, I’d never be wanting for anything (okay, not true – I must have sushi). Your festival shots are great fun! It looks like spring to me over there. I hope you have your flip flops at the ready 🙂

  11. Mandy Says:

    30 pounds!!!! Ok, I am converted. 🙂 Quick question, how do you poach your pork/shrimp?

  12. holybasil Says:

    Denise – Thanks – it does look quite festive, doesn’t it?

    Kevin – Thanks!

    Warda – no, no. That’s crazy to not eat. The only time I didn’t eat was right before my wedding (nervousness, I guess).

    WORC – I know! Gotta love our fams. The weather was nice that day but then it’s back to gloom and doom now. 😦 It’s a good thing we got out when it was good, though.

    Jen – You crack me up! Sushi is a must for me to. I get these crazy pangs in my stomach if I go too long without it. Pierre does not share that same interest – even though he lived in Tokyo for a while. But anyhoo, the festival was so much fun. No flip flops yet but they are at the ready 🙂

    Mandy – Yes, it’s hard to believe, but sadly, very true.

    To poach the chicken/pork/shrimp, I cook it in barely simmering water until done (rather than a strong boil). I think it results in a much more tender texture. Thanks for asking!

  13. MKP Says:

    Hi Christine,

    Your food looks so good, you might inspire me to start cooking again! I could stand to lose some weight I gained from working to hard and not exercising!

    Looking forward to meeting you and Pierre again through the FestiFools show.


  14. mycookinghut Says:

    You are really the master of salad! Being so creative in selecting the ingredients! Well done!

  15. holybasil Says:

    Myra – Thanks so much! Festifools rocked our world! Your photographs are spectacular – great perspective, great composition and all-around fun.

    p.s. Your website and blog are so well designed – they really reflect your fun personality. Love them!

    Mycookinghut – Oh, gee, thanks! Looking forward to seeing more of your awesome pics from your trip on your blog!

  16. MKP Says:

    Thanks, Christine, for the great feedback on my blog and website. It’s a labor of love, but still a lot of labor 🙂

  17. Tartelette Says:

    You’re right: eating everything in moderation and moving. This was the only way I finally lost 50 pounds (from pastry training and sampling). Fresh veggies, seafood, not too much meat and plenty of getting about, that’s waht workd for me so I can have my cake and eat it too on the weekend. This salad is going in my to-do list!

  18. Zoe Says:

    I, too, love Gỏi, and really, all Vietnamese food. Can’t wait to try this recipe — cahm anh! (Sorry if I have misspelled that! I had a Vietnamese boyfriend many years ago and learned to not only love Vietnamese food but also speak a little — very little — Vietnamese. Never learned how to spell it though!)

    P.S. Love the blog — I find a recipe I want to try in almost every post!

  19. Van tran Says:


    I am a cookery teacher. I try this recipe for my class. I show them how to fry the cracker using the chopstick. Then you take a spoon of the salad and put in the middle of the cracker. They love it so much. The combination of cracker and salad makes you feel sasticfied.

    Thanks a lot for the recipe.

  20. Kim Says:

    I can not believe I found this website. I must be home. I can totally relate to every comment on this site!

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