I really have the greatest respect for the bloggers I follow like Beatrice Peltre, The White on Rice Couple, The Church Cook and the Cilantropist. It really takes a lot of effort, time and finesse to be able to produce their stunning photos aside from cooking the actual product that tastes really good. I’ve been a night crawler all my life and I can’t seem to get my act together in the morning when I can use the light in my room to take more beautiful photos. Most of the time, I cook at night and I take a few snaps and eat it right away…I really should start planning what I do rather than doing things on the fly. Anyway, enough with the laments…last Saturday I decided to open up my Vietnamese pickled lotus stems to create my own version of my super favorite Vietnamese dish :

Lotus Stem Salad with Shrimp, Pork and Prawn Crackers (Goi Ngo Sen Tom Thit)

400 grams of fresh shrimp (suahe)

300 grams of pork, marinated in 2 Tbsp of fish sauce
2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup Vietnamese Mint or Laksa Leaf

4 tbsp chopped coriander

juice of 2 green limes or lemons

4 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp Patis

4 tbsp rice wine vinegar

6 tbsp plum sauce or sweet-chili sauce
1/2 cup pickled lotus stems (optional)
salt and pepper

pickled carrots & radish:
1/4 cup carrot strings

1/4 cup radish strings

3 tbsp salt for squeezing

1 tbsp sugar

pinch of salt

1/4 cup vinegar

unfried prawn crackers (you can get these at SM hypermart in a box called “Fat and Thin”)
oil for deep frying

crispy fried shallots and peanuts

First we make the pickled carrots and radish: (Can be done ahead of time and can be kept in the fridge)
1. In a bowl, mix together the vinegar, sugar and the pinch of salt until mixture is uniform.
2. Put the carrots and radish strings in another bowl, pour the 3 tbsp salt on them. Mix well and then squeeze out the excess liquid. Wash it and squeeze out the excess liquid again.
3. Mix the carrots and radish strings with the vinegar mixture and set aside.

Second, we prepare the meats: (Can be done ahead of time and can be kept in the fridge)
1. Add 2 cups water to a saucepan and allow to boil, add the shrimp and cook until it changes color. Remove the shrimps and drain. Set aside to cool.

2. In a pan, put about 3/4 cup of water and lay the pieces of pork. Allow the water to boil and dissipate. When the water evaporates, add the butter and turn the pork. Cook until both sides are slightly golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. While the pork is cooling, remove the heads and peel the shrimps. Slice lengthwise and remove the vein. When the pork cools, slice the pork thinly and set aside.

Third we make the dressing. (Can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge)
1. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and then add the lotus stems. Set aside. Taste it and make your own adjustments if you want.
2. Add about 1/2 of the pickled radish and carrot mixture to the dressing.

Fourth we fry the prawn crackers:
1. Pour a good amount of oil in a sauce pan for deep frying over medium heat. Test the oil if it is ready by dropping a prawn cracker in it. It will be hot enough when the prawn cracker expands and floats onto the surface. Fry enough prawn crackers to your liking. Serve them immediately.

1. Toss the pork, shrimps, dressing and vietnamese mint together. Top with more coriander, crispy fried shallot and peanuts and serve with the prawn crackers.

This salad had a lot of work but a lot of the components can be done ahead of time. The taste is absolutely heavenly: a mixture of sweet, sour and salty as well as crunchy and chewy textures. You can also wrap them in lettuce like a spring roll. Use the prawn crackers as a “edible spoon” for the salad. This dish serves 4-6 people.