Friday, December 4, 2009

CSA week one - Bap xao

Here is a Vietnamese corn salad that uses some similar flavors as the Thai corn soup I made earlier this week, but turns out very differently. It didn't turn out great because of the tough not-very-sweet corn we got, but it wasn't out and out bad and it showed a lot of promise. I found it at

3/2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped scallion, both white and green parts
3/2 Tablespoons dried shrimp (Chinese, SE Asian and Mexican varieties are all quite similar so feel free to substitute with whatever you've got.)
1 hot pepper of your preference, chopped
2 cups fresh corn cut from the cob (my two cobs each produced a little under a cup so I topped it off with frozen corn.)
3.4 Tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce (milder than the Thai variety)
dash salt

1. Rinse the dried shrimp, dry them off and either finely chop them or, preferably, run them through your spice grinder to create a powder.

2. Heat the oil and butter in a wok or large pan over high heat. Add scallion, dried shrimp and pepper. Stir fry briefly until scallion is wilted and the mixture is aromatic.

3. Stir in the corn. Add the fish sauce and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, until the corn is cooked. (This week's tough corn took longer and never really got tender.) Remove from heat and adjust seasoning adding salt or sugar as necessary to create a savory-sweet flavor.

To make a full meal out of this, I served it over rice and topped with a skewer of shrimp. I wanted flavors on the shrimp to match the corn, but not too closely, so I used an oil based marinade flavored with garlic, ginger, scallion, sesame oil, red pepper, salt and fish sauce and then cooked them in a very hot cast iron pan still in their shells to protect them from the heat. I probably should have scraped off the scallions first. Still, they came out just fine.

As for the corn, the fishy salty savoriness is a pleasant counterpoint to the corn's buttery sweetness. It's a complex balance for such a simple dish, but I suppose that's typical of Vietnamese cooking. The corn retains a good bite (being kind of tough and all), but they squish nicely so they are cooked through. The best bit is the fond--mixed shrimp shreds and corn milk browned into a crisp powder--that I scraped off the pan and sprinkled into the salad. I like the added textural element, but I regret that that there's still a lot stuck in the pan. Next time, maybe, I'd add a deglazing step (Maybe with white wine; I could see that working with the flavors of the dish.) so all that flavor ends up on the corn. I wouldn't mind the salad just a little moister anyway.


Frodnesor said...

So it wasn't just me that found the corn a bit tough and starchy? I wasn't sure whether it was because I'd held on to it for a few days before cooking it off.

billjac said...

I actually made this that Saturday only a few hours after the drop off. It just wasn't very good corn. Such are the vicissitudes of organic farming.