Saigon Street Style Calamari and My Vietnamese Salad
Though I have no one real favorite cuisine, if I could think of one region that mesmerizes me more than others it would be Southeast Asia. The intensity of the flavors absolutely makes my head spin. Tonight we’ll make and eat the New World Classic dishes that rely on the flavors of Southeast Asia. You’ll cherish these recipes for ever.
Let's start with my signature Vietnamese salad. I have always loved the mix of raw veggies, sprouts and herbs in a good Vietnamese salad. I have made it with so many ingredients; green mango and papaya, bitter lettuces, long beans, shaved melon ... and they are all great, but they have limited seasons. I wanted this to be a year round dish on my menu so I worked it to the existing set up of cabbage, carrots, daikon, cukes, scallions, sprouts, herbs, peanuts and just a bit of lettuce. When designing the dressing I originally went with a basic Nuoc Cham; fish sauce, shallot, lime, sugar water. But I needed more tang and that is where the tamarind comes in. This dressing is so addictive.
Now onto to my beloved Saigon Street Style Calamari dish. When this dish evolved, it started as a presentation for soft shell crabs on a mess of cucumbers, rice and herbs with my basic Satay sauce (the recipe is below). Crispy crabs, fresh salad, peanut sauce; what's not to love?
I wanted the shells to crisp without an excessive amount of breading. I tried a few flours, but after a few experiments with corn starch, chestnut flour and tapioca, I settled upon fine white rice flour because it did exactly what I wanted. It added a crisp but very thin shell to the crabs. Well, after crab season ended, I had to keep going with this presentation; the peanut sauce, the cucumbers, the mess of herbs, the hot chile sauce! It was just too good to run for a few short weeks during soft shell crab season. After a few earnest tries on shrimp, perch and scallops (all good), we tried calamari and calamari it was and will be! Alas, a signature dish was born.
There was only one adjustment to make.
The satay sauce was just a little too thick for the delicate calamari so I had to thin it out without sacrificing its luxurious flavor. I tried lime juice and rice vinegar, too tart. I tried sugar water, too sweet. Then it hit me that tamarind water would be perfectly tart without being to citric or vinegary. I went to the panty to get the tamarind concentrate and spied three nicely labeled quarts of my Vietnamese dressing. Any chef loves a shortcut, one less prep item to add to the list, so I whisked a little Vietnamese dressing into the peanut sauce base and ..well, the rest is history, really.
After Blackened String beans, this is the biggest selling appetizer of both New World restaurants. We only use Rhode Island calamari and i have estimated that in the last 10 years I have purchases well over 50,000 pounds of calamari. Supporting Local, more or less.
|Get some tamarind Concentrate at you local Indian, Asian or Online market. It's a life changer.|
New World Classic Vietnamese Salad
VEGGIES Included but not limited to
Crispo lettuce, shaved
daikon radish, julienne
cucumbers, peeled and sliced into half moons
mung bean sprouts
basil, Thai or cinnamon basil, mint, cilantro, torn into pieces
I like to cut everything not too small, as if it were going to be a stir fry
1/2 cup palm or brown sugar
3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate * Asian or Indian market
1/4 cup hot water
1 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
Heat the vinegar and water and pour over the sugar and tamarind. Dissolve the sugar and tamarind in the warm water and vinegar. Then add the oil, fish sauce and sesame seeds. Whisk together well.
At New World we layer mix of cabbage, crispy lettuce, carrots, scallions, mung bean sprouts, cucumbers, daikon radish, mint, cilantro, basil and chopped peanut for our Vietnamese salad and we serve it in a bowl with chopsticks.
Drizzle the dressing over generously.
Saigon Street Style Calamari with Tamarind Peanut Sauce
Chef’s Note: Frying at home shouldn't be a hassle. Billions of people do it worldwide.Remember to always have a tight fitting lid on hand JUST INB BASE there is a flare up in the oil. NEVER add water to oil. If by rare chance the oil flares up don't panic. Simply cover the pan, turn off the heat and allow it to cool down for about 10 minutes. No worries.
24 ounces calamari (tubes and tentacles)
2 cups or more white rice flour
Peanut or sunflower oil for frying
Mung bean sprouts
Set up your bowls with generous handsful of julienne cucumbers, cilantro springs and mung bean sprouts in big nests.
Heat oil in a wok or dutch oven to 375. Use a fryer thermometer or candy thermometer.
Season the flour well.
Fry in small batches to keep the oil temperature from dropping too much,
Add the calamari a handful at a time and toss to coat with flour. Carefully add to the flour and fry for one minute,. It needed get dark brown, the rice flour with remain off white when crispy. Remove from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon.
Allow the oil 30-60 seconds after removing each batch to come back up to heat.
FOR THE SAUCES
1/4 cup Chile Garlic sauce
2 tablespoons sriracha
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup Ric’s basic peanut sauce (recipe below)
1/2 cup Vietnamese dressing (recipe below)
Peanut Sauce Base
Chef’s Note: This is also the sauce I use for satay, thinned with a bit of coconut milk. It’s so good you’ll want to use it on everything!
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems and bottom halves
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoon light brown sugar or palm sugar
1 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 fresh jalapeno
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
|Making the base for peanut sauce. make sure to mince up those cilantro stems or your base will be stringy|
In a food processor, puree first 9 ingredients well, then add peanut butter and coconut milk.
Store leftovers chilled and covered for up top one month.
Get more of my food pics and ideas on