Inevitably, as my moving date approaches, my mind turns to things I’ll miss in Paris. But even worse, I’ve also started thinking about what is available here that I haven’t taken advantage of. Chief amongst these things is the market. Most neighborhoods in Paris have a weekly market, which is full of all sorts of things that are difficult to find in supermarkets. Many are small, mine is only about 12 stalls, but they are utterly charming and reasonably priced.
I’ve had this recipe bouncing around my head since last weekend, but I really wanted raw shrimp for it (something my supermarket doesn’t sell). So I waited patiently for today, market day, and decided to wake up early to go to the market before work. I did just that, walk the 5 minutes to the little park where the market is supposed to be, only to be greeted by the skeletons of stalls, and not much else. After coming home and checking online, I realised that my market is an afternoon/evening market, not a morning one. Maybe this is part of the reason I haven’t gone to the markets much…
So I went to the market after work instead, only to find that the fish stall has run out of raw shrimp. I resigned myself to buying cooked shrimp. I suppose the woman must’ve seen the disappointment on my face, as she threw in a few for free, which did help mitigate said disappointment.
Anyway, to the recipe at hand. This is definitely the healthiest thing I’ve made in 2014 (it really doesn’t have much competition). At first it seems like a strange combination, but I like to think of it as a deconstructed spring roll. The “dressing” I use is a simplified nuoc cham sauce, which always accompanies spring rolls. The starring trio, grapefruit, avocado, and shrimp make a tart, creamy, sweet combination which is seriously good, while the glass noodle base is fantastic for absorbing the sauce and rounding things out.
Of course, I’m sure you’re all aware of the huge amount of Vitamin C in grapefruit, and the antioxidants in avocados, but I did some research into glass, or cellophane, noodles and they have some benefits as well. They’re made from mung bean starch, which means making them gluten free. That means this whole recipe should be gluten free, although you should double check the fish sauce because some brands do have wheat in them. If you’re really into the whole healthy eating thing, you could always put this over a bed of salad, or even quinoa. I’m trying to take baby steps here.
The only major downside of this recipe is the amount of prep. Peeling all the membranes off of the grapefruit is definitely monotonous. The only thing to do is to put on some good music or a podcast and embrace it. You could also leave them on, but the little naked grapefruit chunks really are worth all the extra work in the end. A bit of prep you could skip is slicing the shrimp down the middle. I do it because I like the curlicue shape they bounce into when cooked like that, but it’s totally not necessary.
Finally, there are different opinions on how to cook glass noodles. A lot of people say just to soak them in hot water for anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour depending on your noodles, but I find they never go quite soft enough, so I boil them for between 2-4 minutes. You do what your heart tells you to. And then thank yourself for this delicious, and healthy meal.
Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruithttp
200g (7 oz) glass noodles
1-2 avocados (depending on size)
300g (10.5 oz) shrimp
1/3 cup chopped cilantro/coriander
3.5 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice (lemon or grapefruit would also work)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sriracha (optional)
Put a pot of lightly salted water on to simmer. While it’s coming to a simmer, peel the shrimp and cut them in half down the spine (this isn’t totally necessary, just makes them pretty in the final dish). With the water gently simmering, submerge the shrimp and cook until they have curled up and are completely opaque, about 5 minutes. When they’re done, remove them with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Bring to a boil and add the noodles to the same pot, stirring frequently. Cook them for between 2-4 minutes, depending on how done you want them. Drain, and rinse with cold water. Sometimes I return them to the pot and cut through them a few times to make eating easier, but it’s up to you. Both the noodles and the shrimp can be stored in the fridge while you finish the prep to make a uniformly cool final dish.
Peel the grapefruit, and divide it into segments. Carefully remove the membrane from each segment (it’s worth it, I promise) and break it into 3 pieces. Peel the avocado and chop into rough pieces. Chop the cilantro (making sure to include the stems! they’re full of flavor). In a bowl mix the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and sriracha if using. Adjust to your taste.
In a medium bowl, mix the grapefruit, avocado, shrimp, and cilantro. Pour about half of the sauce into the bowl and toss. Pour the other half over the noodles and toss. To serve place a fourth of the noodles in a bowl, and top with a fourth of the shrimp, avocado, and grapefruit mixture. This is really best eaten immediately, but it will be alright in the fridge for about a day.