Instant noodles wind up practically everywhere regular noodles do, and even occasionally where they don’t. For instance, I’ve seen people crunch into them straight from the bag. It’s no shocker, then, that the beloved product—called MAMA in Thai, in reference to the best-known brand—makes great fodder for yam. Yam is often translated as “salad,” and while the English word does the trick, it doesn’t do much justice in describing the room-temperature jumbles of vegetables, herbs, and proteins dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, and chiles. When MAMA enters the fray, yam becomes a hearty snack to share while you booze, the heat and salt compelling another swig, and then another.
Hot, sour, salty, a little sweet
Chopsticks, fork and spoon
14 g / 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
6 g / 4 stemmed fresh or frozen Thai chiles (preferably green)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (preferably from Key limes or from regular [Persian] limes with a squeeze of Meyer lemon juice)
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp Naam Cheuam Naam Taan Piip (Palm Sugar Simple Syrup; recipe follows)
1 (60 g) package Thai instant ramen (such as MAMA brand), seasoning powder and seasoning paste discarded
2 oz / 4 medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 oz Vietnamese pork roll, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
2 oz / 1/4 cup thinly sliced (1/4 inch; with the grain) yellow onion
2 oz / 5 (1-inch) cored tomato wedges
3 g / 1/4 cup small mint leaves
8 g / 2 tbsp sliced (1/4 inch) green onion
4 g / 2 tbsp very roughly chopped Chinese celery (thin stems and leaves)
2 g / 1 tbsp very roughly chopped cilantro (thin stems and leaves)
Fill a large, tall pot with enough water to submerge a long-handled noodle basket and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, pound the garlic and chiles in a mortar to a very coarse paste, about 1 minute. Transfer 12 g / 1 tbsp of the mixture (or more to taste) to a medium saucepan, add the lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar simple syrup and stir well.
When the water comes to a boil, put the instant ramen, shrimp, and pork roll in the noodle basket and submerge the contents in the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally with chopsticks to separate the noodles, until the shrimp are cooked and the noodles are fully tender (not al dente), about 2 minutes. Firmly shake the basket to drain well and set aside.
Set the saucepan with the garlic-chile mixture over medium heat and heat until the mixture is just warm to the touch, 15 seconds or so. Turn off the heat and add the noodles, shrimp, and pork roll to the saucepan, then the yellow onion, tomato, mint, green onion, Chinese celery, and cilantro. Toss well and transfer the salad (including all of the dressing) to a plate in a low heap. Serve right away.
Naam Cheuam Naam Taan Piip | Palm Sugar Simple Syrup
Makes about 1 3/4 cups
10 oz palm sugar (preferably Thai)
1 1/4 cups water
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it reaches a boil, turn off the heat. Let it sit, breaking up chunks, until the sugar has fully dissolved and the mixture has cooked completely.
The syrup will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Reprinted with permission from Pok Pok Noodles by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography credit: Austin Bush © 2019
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