Note: Dried red pepper flakes are used here as a way of introducing at least one smoky elements to the dish which could have been just as nice with fresh chilies. But you can also grill the shrimp, as opposed to poaching them, just to get a nice smoky char in which case finely-chopped fresh Thai bird's eye chilies are recommended as a replacement for the dried red pepper.
- 1 1/2 pounds large or jumbo shrimp (21-25 count), peeled and deveined
- 2 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 3 medium-sized on-the-vine tomatoes
- 2 large shallots or 1/2 a large red onion
- 2 large Granny Smith apples
- Dried red pepper flakes, to taste
- Fresh lime juice, to taste
- Fish sauce, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups plain roasted cashews, preferably unsalted
- 1/3 cup mint leaves, torn into small pieces by hand
Put the water and the salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that water is steaming but no longer boiling. If you have a thermometer, make sure the water registers somewhere between 160 ̊ and 180 ̊ F which is ideal for poaching shrimp. (For those needing help on the proper way to poach shrimp, see this video demo by Chef Michael Pardus of the Culinary Institute of America.)
Poach the shrimp, stirring them around, just until the flesh turns opaque. This should take no more than one minute; drain, place the shrimp in a large mixing bowl, and set aside.
Trim the tops off the tomatoes, and cut them into 1/2-inch wedges; add them to the shrimp bowl.
Peel the shallots (or red onion) and slice them lengthwise very thinly and add them to the shrimp bowl.
Core and halve the apples, and slice them lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices. Working with 4-5 slices at a time, arrange the apple slices into neat stacks and cut them into matchsticks, about 1/8 inch in width. Add the apple matchsticks to the shrimp bowl.
Season to taste with lime juice, fish sauce, and dried red pepper flakes; toss. The exact amounts of these ingredients cannot be given, because it all depends on how tart or sweet the apples and tomatoes are as well as your heat tolerance. The overall flavor of the salad should be predominantly sour, then salty, with a tinge of sweetness from the fruits. Start with less lime juice and fish sauce than you think prudent as you can always add more. (It's good to have about 1/4 cup of fish sauce and 3-4 limes on hand just so you know you have enough ingredients to work with even though you may not need to use all of them. Also, take into consideration whether your cashews are salted or not. If they are, go easy on the fish sauce.)
Add in the cashews and mint leaves; toss the salad again. Serve immediately as a stand-alone salad or an entrée with steamed rice.