This recipe is a hat tip to all the Southeast Asians fishing for shad on the American and Sacramento rivers near my home.
Other than a few transplanted Easterners and an even fewer number of local non-Asians, few people eat shad here in the West. I happen to think that shad is best smoked, and I’ve been making my own smoked shad for many years. But any smoked fish will work for this light, bright salad.
And honestly, really any fish cooked any way you want, so long as it can be flaked, will work. So don’t get all hung up on shad or smoked fish, although I happen to like both in this dish. Smoked foods add a mellow, savory base to all the other flavors in this salad, which are crunchy, tart and spicy.
The key here is the mix of fresh vegetables, some roasted peanuts, fish or seafood and a zippy dressing that brings it all together.
I serve this all by itself on hot days, but smoked fish salad is nice over rice, or, if you chop everything a bit smaller, as a sandwich filling.
This dish doesn't exist in Vietnam, so far as I can tell, but it definitely has the flavors we all look for in that fantastic cuisine. Sweet, sour, salty, meaty, and spicy... and to this I add smoky. Any sort of flaked fish, smoked or not, will work here.
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablesoon water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced and mashed
- 1 tablespoon sambal chile sauce, or 1-2 small hot chiles, minced
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1 pound flaked fish (ideally smoked)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded on a grater
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
- 3 to 6 green onions, sliced thin
- 20 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 to 3 serrano or jalapeno chiles, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
Make the dressing by mixing all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. If you'd like, you can puree it all in a blender. The dressing will keep for a week or so in the fridge.
Mix the salad ingredients in a large bowl and add dressing to taste. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.