Vegan Thai Warm Mushroom Salad (Het Paa Naam Tok)

I’ve had the dish het paa naam tok several times in my life, but it didn’t occur to me to make it until recently. I first came across this salad (a wonderful mix of soy, lime, mushrooms, herbs, and chili powder) at Pok Pok Ny, and I loved it. I had a variation of it again in Thailand, where it was so spicy it made my nose run. A few weeks ago I had it at Corthaiyou, where my girlfriend and I loved it so much I determined to make my own.

I came across Andy Ricker’s recipe online and it’s pretty simple. Sure, it calls for a couple of specialty ingredients but thee is nothing you can’t substitute or omit as you wish.

Start with any mushrooms you like — most recently I used a mix of oysters mushrooms, king oysters, and creminis, but you can use anything. Cut them into large chunks — larger than bite-sized, because they will shrink when cooked. Ricker calls for them to be grilled with salt and pepper, but I don’t have a grill so I lightly browned them in my cast iron pan. A little charring adds a nice flavor to the salad, but you can cook them to your preferred done-ness.

While the mushrooms cook prepare the dressing in a small sauce pot. It’s a mix of soy sauce and lime juice (I’d say one part soy to four parts lime), with a pinch of toasted Thai chili flakes (or whatever chili flakes you have lying around). Bring the mix to a boil and turn off the heat.

By this point your mushrooms should be done cooking. Move them to a large bowl and pour the hot dressing over them. Let them sit for a while, soaking up all of that salty/sour/spicy goodness. When you’re ready to serve toss the mushrooms with some fresh herbs — cilantro is good, a mix of cilantro and mint would be better — and (optionally) some toasted rice powder. It’s best served warm or room temperature, and with some etra chili flakes on the side. You can add lemongrass, or thinly sliced shallots, but even if you just made it with the mushrooms it would be amazing.

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