Today’s Torn Herb Shrimp Salad is my current favorite salad. It may even stand the test of time and be my favorite salad full-stop. I’m not the biggest fan of salads, or at least I thought I wasn’t. This blog’s sheer number of salad recipes seems to tell a different story. I realize now that I don’t have a beef with salads. How could I? A salad is pretty much just a bunch of ingredients in a bowl. What I hate is boring green salads. You know the romaine affairs with two cherry tomatoes, and a half-heartedly diced cucumber? Yeah, I can’t get down with that. But a full-volume, bold salad with contrasting flavors and textures and just a hint of naughty? Oh boy! Steal a girl’s heart why don’t you? This salad is all that and a bag of chips.
So what are we looking at here? This salad boasts a peppery base of watercress accented with Thai Basil leaves, mint leaves, and coarsely chopped cilantro. It’s topped Cobb-salad-style with lemongrass-poached shrimp, shaved heirloom carrot and cucumber, thinly sliced red chilis, and a crunchy cocktail of crushed dry roasted peanuts and crisp coconut chips. The dressing is a rice vinegar affair with sambal oelek, a whisper of lime juice, and a kiss of honey. This salad has it all!
I’ve officially entered summer salad mode. And today’s Torn Herb Shrimp Salad is my current go-to, which is really pissing my partner off because he hates shrimp. But does that stop me? No. And if you are truly worried that he is somewhere in the house slowly starving to death, let me reassure you, grilled chicken and/or tofu is always on offer as well. I just have to destroy all evidence of shrimp preparation after dinner and we’re golden. And hey, I’m not a massive fan of lingering seafood smells either, so it all works out. But I digress. None of this is important but this salad most certainly is.
I like to work on the components of the salad that are not at all time-sensitive first. The majority of this salad is tender herbs, so they have a limited window of viability. The more I can get done before introducing them to the humidity of the summer the better off the salad will be. So we’re going to kick things off with the crushed peanut mixture and the dressing. Both of which can be made days in advance.
Oddly enough we’re going to kick things off with the last thing to go on our salad – the crushed peanut mixture. This is really a no-brainer. I feel a little dumb for even explaining it. Essentially all you have to do is pile some dry roasted peanuts and coconut chips into a food processor and pulse until you reach your desired consistency. That’s it! A few little tips, use “delicately seasoned” peanuts or the salt will overwhelm the coconut, and make sure your coconut is a crisp chip. Shredded coconut is too chewy for this task.
Now, let’s move on to the dressing. Start by placing garlic in a jar and add some sambal oelek. You can play with how much you add, just bear in mind sambal oelek packs a spicy punch. And yes, I am aware sambal oelek has a ton of garlic. But I like to add fresh garlic for its bite. If you’re less of a garlic fiend, you can skip the fresh garlic and just rely on the sambal oelek. Add some rice wine vinegar and neutral oil. Now to balance everything out, add a little honey and lime juice. The vinegar brings the acid in this dressing but the lime brings a floral quality, so I like to include them both. The honey gives the dressing that perfect hint of sweetness. Seal the jar and give it a shake and that’s your dressing done.
Now let’s talk shrimp. This is the only portion of the recipe that requires you to turn on your stove. And no, you don’t have to camp out by it. Add some oil to a skillet and sauté a little garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Pour in some water and fish sauce and stir in a few star anise pods and a cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let the liquid simmer for 15 minutes so everything has a chance to get to know each other. At this point, you can get as far away from the stove as you care to. It will take care of itself, so treat yourself by shoving your face directly in front of your air conditioning unit.
When the 15 minutes are up and the tip of your nose is cold, take the skillet off of the heat and add the shrimp. Cover and leave them to poach for 5-7 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure you only leave them in the ice water for 2 minutes. Drain the shrimp and the most laborious portion of this recipe is done.
Okay, now let’s build the salad. Start with a bed of watercress. Top the watercress with Thai basil leaves, mint leaves, and sprigs of cilantro. You can, of course, chop your herbs but I love keeping them whole. I find their flavor is punchier that way. Plus, I like how each bite of this salad is a little different. From here, add your veggies and shrimp any way you prefer. I like to do this in a Cobb-Salad style but listen to your heart and chart your own course. Finish the salad with a sprinkling of the peanut mixture and some red chilis. Drizzle the dressing over top and serve immediately.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Torn Herb Shrimp Salad. A vibrant and fresh heat-wave-friendly meal that isn’t short on flavor or color. Simple to make and meal-prep-friendly, this is a salad worth revisiting again and again.
Torn Herb Shrimp Salad
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 Food Processor
- ⅓ cup dry roasted peanuts lightly seasoned
- ⅓ cup coconut chips
Sambal Oelek Dressing
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1½ tbsp sambal oelek
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
Lemongrass Poached Shrimp
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp ginger minced
- 1 tbsp lemongrass purée
- 2 cups water
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 8 star anise pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 400g (14oz) tiger shrimp peeled, tails-on
Torn Herb Shrimp Salad
- 113g (4oz) watercress
- ¼ cup Thai basil leaves tightly packed
- ¼ cup mint leaves tightly packed
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves tightly packed
- 1 purple heirloom carrot sliced thin on a mandoline
- 1 yellow heirloom carrot sliced thin on a mandoline
- 2 mini cucumbers sliced thin on a mandoline
- 1 batch Lemongrass Poached Shrimp see above
- 1 batch Sambal Oelek Dressing ** see above
- 1 batch Peanut Crumble see above
- 2-3 red chilies thinly sliced
For the Peanut Crumble
- Place the peanuts and coconut chips in a food processor. Pulse until the desired texture is achieved. Transfer to a bowl and set it aside.⅓ cup dry roasted peanuts, ⅓ cup coconut chips
For the Dressing
- Place all the dressing ingredients in a jar. Seal the jar and shake to combine. Chill until ready to serve.2 cloves garlic, 1½ tbsp sambal oelek, ⅓ cup rice vinegar, ¼ cup neutral oil, 1 lime, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp honey
For the Shrimp
- Pour the oil into a skillet and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering add the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Sauté for a minute.1 tbsp neutral oil, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp ginger, 1 tbsp lemongrass purée
- Pour in the water and fish sauce and add the star anise and cinnamon stick and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes. Take the skillet off of the heat and immediately add the shrimp. Cover and let sit for 5-7 minutes or until the shrimp turns pink.2 cups water, 3 tbsp fish sauce, 8 star anise pods, 1 cinnamon stick, 400g (14oz) tiger shrimp
- Transfer the shrimp to an ice bath and let sit for 2 minutes before draining them. Chill until ready to serve.
For the Salad
- Pile the watercress on a platter. Scatter the Thai Basil, mint, and cilantro on top. Place the carrots, cucumber, and shrimp on top of the greens in rough vertical sections. Sprinkle the Peanut Crumble and red chili slices on top.113g (4oz) watercress, ¼ cup Thai basil leaves, ¼ cup mint leaves, ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, 1 purple heirloom carrot, 1 yellow heirloom carrot, 2 mini cucumbers, 1 batch Lemongrass Poached Shrimp, 1 batch Peanut Crumble, 2-3 red chilies
- Serve with the dressing on the side or drizzle it on top just prior to serving.1 batch Sambal Oelek Dressing **