I went to Naomi Duguid's book talk on her new book, "Burma: Rivers of Flavor"; she was great to listen to because she is very intelligent, kind, and compassionate, and she packed so much knowledge into her talk. She is really good at noticing small details and telling anecdotes. Her book that she wrote with her husband, "Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, is what got me started cooking Southeast Asian food. She describes the basic in the cuisines well, and that gave me confidence to try out her dishes, and also to understand the cuisines better, and to be able to differentiate which Southeast Asian recipes from other sources are worth trying. Before I used her book, I always felt like my Southeast Asian attempts tasted fine, but weren't really Southeast Asian dishes. After learning from her books, I'm now happy with how my Southeast Asian dishes come out!
So I spent this past Sunday wandering around Chinatown to buy dried shrimps, which is one of the few ingredients that are used all over in her book that you need to go to a specialty store for. She says that the shrimp is often ground into a powder in Burma, and added in small quantities so that you don't notice a shrimp or seafood taste, but they add umami to dishes. Previously, I've always been too scared to try dried shrimp, but with Duguid's encouragement (and since they are ground and you can't see them), I've finally tried them.
Now that I finally have the basic ingredients, so I made this "Punchy-Crunchy Ginger Salad" tonight in order to try out my first recipe from her new book.
Dried shrimp in package. Even though the store had these at room temperature, if you want to keep them for longer than a month, then they are best kept tightly wrapped in plastic in the freezer (see here). They should smell sweet and like the sea. If they have an ammonia smell then they have gone bad.
1 cup of dried shrimp made into dried shrimp powder. 1/4 cup of the powder is mixed into the salad. Since dried shrimp powder goes bad in a few days, you should only grind as much as you need. 2 Tbsps dried shrimp (lightly packed) will make about 1/4 cup dried shrimp powder.
I wasn't sure how the pickled ginger would taste in a salad, but it turns out that it is really good! You can taste the pickled ginger, but it isn't overpowering (since the ginger is rinsed in water). The salad is punchy and crunchy, just like she said. Duguid says that this salad is a good substitute for Burmese tea-leaf salad, when pickled or fermented tea leaves are hard to find (they really are, I looked and haven't found any yet). This salad took a lot more time to prepare then I expected, since a bunch of things need to be soaked, roasted, or chopped. I made 1/2 the amounts suggested in the recipe.
I substituted roasted chickpeas for the roasted or fried split soybeans since I didn't have any fried soybeans. I bought the roasted chickpeas at an Indian grocery store; Indian grocery stores carry roasted chickpeas (called "roasted channa" in Indian cooking) since it is used in South Indian cooking, either mixed in as is, or sometimes ground into a powder. I don't know if roasted chickpeas are used in this salad in Burma, but I think they are a reasonable substitution since chickpea flour is heavily used in Burmese cooking, so chickpeas are a Burmese ingredient, and Burma is very close to India, so sometimes they do share some ingredients or spices.
I only used 1/4 a tsp salt (half of what is recommended for the size I was making), since my pumpkin seeds and roasted chickpeas were salted, and I didn't think that the salad needed more salt.
This is all of the salad ingredients (napa cabbage is underneath), except for the liquids: