Xalach dia is an essential part of the Vietnamese table. The salad vegetables are used to wrap, to accompany, to enchance or to alter the other dishes or they are eaten simply on their own.
- Asian or sweet basil leaves
- Mint leaves
- Coriander sprigs
- Leaf lettuce (one or more kinds), separated into leaves
- Small scallions, trimmed
- Small lime wedges
- Bird chiles, whole or minced
- Cucumber slices or chunks
- Bean sprouts, raw or briefly parboiled and drained
- Carrot and Daikon Pickled Salad, recipe follows
- Pickled Bean Sprout Salad, recipe follows
Set out the ingredients of your choice on one or more plates or shallow bowls to accompany any meal.
Carrot and Daikon Pickled Salad:
- 1/2 pound carrots, peeled
- 1/2 pound daikon radish, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Cut the tip off each carrot on a long diagonal. Use a mandoline or other vegetable slicer or a coarse grater to slice the carrots into strips, or use a knife to cut into matchsticks. You should have approximately 2 cups. Place the carrots in a large strainer and set aside.
Use the same method to make daikon strips. You should have approximately 2 cups. Add to the carrots in the strainer and mix well with your hands. Sprinkle on the salt and toss to mix. Place over a bowl or in the sink and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a nonreactive saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, and sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat; cool to room temperature. Don't cook the vegetables, bathe them.
Rinse the vegetables briefly with cold water, then squeeze dry and transfer to a medium bowl. Pour over the vinegar mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon to ensure all the vegetables are well moistened. Let stand for 1 hour before serving.
To serve, lift the salad out of the vinegar bath and mound attractively on a plate.
Yield: 2 to 3 cups
Pickled Bean Sprout Salad:
- 1 pound mung bean sprouts (about 6 cups loosely packed)
- 5 large scallions or 8 smaller ones, trimmed, smashed flat with the side of a cleaver, sliced lengthwise into ribbons, and then cut crosswise into 2 to 3-inch lengths
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 4 cups water
Rinse the bean sprouts well in cold water, drain, and place in a large bowl. Add scallions and set aside.
Place the remaining ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Pour the vinegar mixture over the sprouts and scallions and stir gently to immerse all the vegetables. Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
Drain the bean sprouts and serve mounded on several plates.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings