Yum Woon Sen
March 23, 2011
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Mung bean noodles, sometimes called cellophane noodles or bean threads, spread throughout Southeast Asia from China where most are still produced. They are readily available if not in your local supermarket then certainly at an Asian market or online. They are packaged as bundles of very long noodles that may be cut or broken if you wish. I am told that yum woon sen, meaning salad of mung bean noodles, is so popular that you can get it at any Thai restaurant whether or not it is on the menu. As with most traditional dishes it comes in endless variations with each cook claiming that his or hers is the best and most authentic. After reading dozens of recipes in cookbooks and online I believe that the essentials, besides the noodles, are protein, vegetables, and a dressing containing fish sauce, an acid, chilies, and sugar. Pork and shrimp are the most common proteins, often in combination, but chicken is sometimes used; I like shrimp. One could, of course, simply omit the protein altogether and still have a tasty dish. Carrots, celery, and onions are the usual vegetables but how they are cut varies from julienne to sliced. The acid in the sauce is lemon or lime juice, or vinegar; I prefer the latter. Thai fish sauce is as essential as the noodles, though. Traditionally, yum woon sen is served on lettuce leaves but since I had none I served it on top of white jasmine rice.
- 3 1½-ounce mung bean noodle bundles
- 12 ounces cooked medium (26 to 30 per pound) shrimp
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally about ⅛-inch thick
- 1 large celery ribs, slice like the carrots
- 3 green onions, cut into ½-inch lengths
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ cup roasted peanuts, unsalted
- ¼ cup Thai fish sauce
- ¼ cup vinegar
- 2 pickled garlic cloves, minced, optional
- 1 Tbsp. palm or white cane sugar, to taste
- 2 or 3 hot Thai chilies, sliced thinly
Soak the noodles in cold water for 15 minutes then drop into boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and cut each bundle in half. Rinse in cold water and put into a large bowl along with shrimp, vegetables, cilantro, and peanuts.
Combine the fish sauce, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and chilies in a small bowl. Pour over the salad and toss with your fingers or tongs until well mixed. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.