Recipe Match for California Sparkling Wine

Thai Seafood Salad

Chef Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao in San Francisco


  • 4 tablespoons tamarind water (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar or palm sugar
  • 10 ounces catfish fillet (or another flaky white-fleshed fish)
  • 4 or 5 medium prawns or wild shrimp (about 10 ounces), preferably with shell and heads on
  • 1 1/2 cups high-smoke-point oil, such as rice bran or safflower oil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons rice flour or tapioca flour (if using the prawn heads)
  • 2 makrut lime leaves, very thinly sliced, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, very thinly sliced, for garnish
  • 2 Thai bird’s eye chiles, cut into thin rounds (or more to taste), for garnish
  • 1/2 small shallot, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon very thinly sliced lemongrass, for garnish


1. In a small bowl, stir together the tamarind water, fish sauce and sugar. Taste the mixture; it should be sour and slightly salty, and finish with almost imperceptible sweetness. Adjust the balance as you prefer. If the tamarind water is very thick and you end up with a thick sauce, thin it out a bit with tepid water. (The tamarind sauce can be prepared to this point and held at room temperature for up to 1 hour.)

2. Fit a large saucepan with a flat steamer basket. Add about an inch of water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and place fish fillet in basket. Cover pot and steam the fish until cooked through and flaky, 3 to 8 minutes depending on thickness. With the tines of a fork, break the fish into small pieces, squishing them a bit to break them down into tiny, fluffy flakes. Set aside to dry slightly.

3. If using head-on prawns, break off the heads and set them aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the prawns and boil until just cooked on the outside but still translucent in the center, about 2 minutes. Transfer prawns to a bowl of ice water and let chill until cool enough to handle. Peel and cut into bite-size pieces.

4. Heat the oil over medium-high in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan until hot. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, sprinkle a handful of the reserved fish flakes into the hot oil and fry until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or flat sieve, transfer the crisp fish flakes to paper towels. Let cool. Optional: The reserved prawn heads can be dredged in the rice flour and fried in the remaining oil until crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

5. Spread a small amount of tamarind sauce on the bottom of each serving plate, followed by the fish flakes and prawn pieces. Spoon the rest of the sauce over. Top with the prawn heads, if using, and sprinkle evenly with the lime leaves, ginger, chile, shallot and lemongrass. Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

Note: Tamarind water can be purchased at Asian markets. To make your own, in a medium bowl, soak 1/3 cup tamarind paste in 1 cup warm water until softened, about 5 minutes. Knead the paste for a minute or so, then pour the water through a coarse sieve set over a bowl. Knead the paste in the sieve for about 30 seconds to press out the remaining liquid. The mixture should have a light, spoonable texture.