Ginger Prawns with Vietnamese Noodle Salad

     Here’s a dish to wake up your taste buds. Full of vim and vigour, crunch and slippery noodles, this salad is an unexpected mix of cucumber and fennel with a sharp, zingy dressing. A hint of sweetness comes from using Thai chilli sauce rather than raw chilli. It gives the pale green and white ingredients an injection of red chilli that won’t blow your head off. This herby Vietnamese-style salad is delicious on its own and could be served with any number of other things apart from prawns; try lime-seasoned strips of fried chicken or fish. The prawns are quickly stir fried with garlic and ginger, just long enough to change colour and cook through, but not too long that they lose their bouncy juiciness. The icing on the cake is crushed peanuts or cashews, but if nuts are off radar, leave them out. There is plenty going on without them.

Serves 4

Prep: 25 min

Cook: 15 min

300g raw, peeled prawns

2 garlic cloves

15g fresh ginger

2 tbsp vegetable oil

150g vermicelli bean thread or rice noodles

150g cucumber

1 small fennel, approx 150g

10g fresh coriander

5g small mint leaves

for the dressing:

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce

for the garnish:

2 tbsp roasted salted peanuts or cashews

1 tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce

     Run a knife down the inside curl of the prawns and wipe away the black vein. Peel and chop the garlic, peel and grate the ginger. Crush together to make a paste then stir with 1 tbsp oil. Smear this over the prawns. To make the salad, soak the noodles in cold water for 10 minutes until soft enough to cut into manageable lengths (approx 8cm). Drain, cover with boiling water and leave for 15 minutes to soften. Peel the cucumber, use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds then slice into thin half moons. Trim and halve the fennel lengthways. Slice thinly across the halves. Chop the coriander. Drain the soft noodles. Peel, chop and crush the garlic to a paste. Mix with remaining dressing ingredients. Add the noodles, mix thoroughly then add the remaining salad ingredients. Mix. Place the peanuts in a plastic bag, seal the end and bash with something heavy to crumb.

     To complete the dish, heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan or wok and stir-fry the prawns, tossing until uniformly pink and just cooked through. Give the salad a final toss, pile into the middle of four plates or bowls and top with the prawns. Scatter with peanuts and a swirl of chilli sauce.