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Spicy Seafood Salad

Spicy Seafood Salad (Yum Talay) Recipe - I wanted to include this recipe to show you how the basic yum dressing used in Fried Egg Salad can be turned into something different. I’m adding a large proportion of clams to this recipe, because the briny juice that clams release blends brilliantly with our yum dressing. Thai chili paste, or nam prik pao, enriches the otherwise light dressing, and its sweetness allows us to eliminate sugar altogether.

Serves: 4 as an appetizer, 2 as an entrée
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Do-ahead Tips: Make the dressing without the clam juice in advance and store in the fridge.
Yum = A type of Thai salad; Talay = Ocean; in the context of food it refers to a mix of seafood
Spicy Seafood Salad

Ingredients

THE DRESSING
  • 1–3 Thai chilies, finely minced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 3 Tbsp Lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 2½ Tbsp Thai chili paste (nam prik pao)

THE SALAD
  • 1 lb Live clams
  • As needed Water
  • 3 Tbsp Lemongrass, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 9 oz Seafood mix of your choice: shrimp, squid, fish, scallops, etc.
  • ½ cup Thai basil leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup Shallots, thinly julienned
  • ½ cup Grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1–2 Green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup Cilantro, chopped
  • For serving Jasmine rice

How to make Spicy Seafood Salad

  1. Make the dressing by stirring all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl; set aside.
  2. Wash the clams in cold water and discard any that are broken or will not close their shells when tapped. If you are using wild clams, there may be sand inside the shells, but farm-raised clams usually don’t have this problem. To get the clams to spit out sand, feel free to use your favourite method, but I like to soak them in cold water with salt for 30 minutes to an hour. After the clams have released the sand, rinse them again in cold water.
  3. In a pot just big enough to hold the clams, add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Add the lemongrass and clams, then cover and cook for 1–2 minutes until the clams open. Remove from the heat and transfer the clams into a large mixing bowl, leaving the cooking water in the pot (it’s fine if some of the lemongrass comes along with the clams). If some of the clams did not open, return them to the pot, cover, and cook them for another minute or so—some clams are just late bloomers! Discard any that still won’t open after the second cooking.
  4. Spoon out 3 Tbsp of the clam cooking liquid and add to the dressing; stir to mix and set aside.
  5. Return the pot to the stove, bring the remaining cooking liquid to a boil, and blanch the seafood of your choice in this liquid, adding more water if needed. Add the cooked seafood to the clam bowl. Repeat with the remaining seafood (see Tip for Success below).
  6. Toss the Thai basil and shallots with the seafood while it’s still warm and let the heat wilt the shallots and infuse the basil’s aroma. Pour the dressing over the seafood, then add the grape tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro; toss gently.
  7. Serve in a shallow bowl on its own as an appetizer, or with jasmine rice.

IMPROVING ON TRADITION
Using the cooking liquid in the dressing isn’t traditional, but I find that it bridges the flavour of the dressing together with that of the seafood, creating a more cohesive dish with a more intense ocean flavour. Adding a touch of lemongrass helps mellow out any fishiness from the seafood. Usually, the seafood for yum talay is blanched in plain water, but since we have this delicious briny clam juice, let’s take advantage of it and bathe the other seafood in this wonderful liquid!
THE BREAKDOWN
The Protein Seafood
The Vegetables Grape tomatoes
The Herbs Shallots, lemongrass, cilantro, green onions, Thai basil
The Dressing Chilies, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, Thai chili paste, clam juice
Flavour Profile Sour and briny, with a distinct sweetness from the chili paste.

Tip for Success: If you are using fish in the salad, to prevent it from crumbling when tossed with the clams, toss it with some of the dressing separately and place it on the salad once plated.
If you are using scallops, you may choose to sear them on a skillet instead to get a brown crust.