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Thai Spicy Shrimp Salad

Thai Spicy Shrimp Salad
Julie O'Hara for NPR /

Salads in Thailand are often the spiciest dishes on the menu because they use fresh, hot chilies. The chili paste is comparatively mild and contributes a distinctive sweet flavor. You can find the Mae Pranom brand in Asian grocery stores or online. Fresh lemongrass is traditionally used, but unless you are very careful about using only the tender inner core, it may have a woody texture. I like the lemongrass paste by the Gourmet Garden brand sold in tubes in the produce sections of many supermarkets because it has all the flavor without the prep work.

Makes 4 servings

2 large shallots, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed

1/4 cup chopped mint, loosely packed

2 red Thai chilies or other small, hot chilies such as serrano, seeded and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

4 teaspoons sugar

4 teaspoons Thai chili paste (or substitute 2 teaspoons chili sauce, such as Heinz)

2 tablespoons lemongrass paste (or substitute 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, tender inner stalk only, chopped fine)

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fish sauce

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)

1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil

16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 large green leaf or romaine lettuce leaves for serving

4 mint sprigs for serving (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the shallots, cilantro and mint. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the chilies, sugar, chili paste, lemongrass paste, fish sauce and lime juice. Mix well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often until just opaque and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the shrimp to the bowl with the chili mixture. Add the shallot-herb mixture and toss well. Arrange a lettuce leaf on each of 4 plates. Spoon 4 shrimp along with their dressing over each leaf and drizzle with additional dressing (you will have some left over). Garnish with a mint spring if you like and serve.

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