Yum Nua is a well-known Thai salad composed of fresh vegetables, bright herbs, nutty toasted rice powder and a punchy, perfectly pungent fish sauce-based vinaigrette. Usually accompanied by slices of seared or grilled beef, this recipe is a reimagined version where arguably one of the ‘meatiest’ vegetables: the mushroom is the star. The majority of the flavour will come from the vinaigrette here and so the mushrooms are very simply seared in a hot cast iron pan to lure out some smokiness before they are tossed in the vinaigrette while still hot for maximum absorption. I have used a combination of baby king, enoki and shiitake mushrooms here, but just about any preferred medley will work.
Yum Het (Spicy Thai Mushroom Salad) 6 Steps
Begin toasting the sweet glutinous rice on medium heat in a small saute pan until deeply evenly golden brown and nutty in aroma. Working in batches if necessary, and using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind to a semi fine powder similar to coffee grounds and set aside (this can be done up to 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight container).
Prepare the dressing: crush the garlic cloves with the brown sugar in the mortar and pestle until a smooth paste forms. Add in the lime juice as well as fish sauce, whisk until even and set aside. (This can also be done in a blender and in advance of three days, kept in the fridge until needed.)
Prep the mushrooms so that they are all an appropriate bite size, keeping all the varieties organized and separate from one another.
Heat a large cast iron pan on high heat and add in just enough vegetable oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan, add in the mushrooms one variety at a time and just enough to spread into one even layer on the surface of the pan. Sear the mushrooms for about 1-2 minutes preside before flipping and searing on the remaining side. Make sure the mushrooms are deeply browned before removing and tossing in a tablespoon or so of the prepared vinaigrette. Add in more oil as required after each batch and continue to cook and dress the mushrooms until they are all done.
In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, shallots, lemongrass, red chili, mint leaves, cilantro leaves and a few tablespoons of the toasted rice powder as well as half of the vinaigrette to start. Gently toss until evenly coated and adjust with more dressing to preference.
Transfer the dressed salad to a platter, top with the cooked and dressed mushrooms as well as an additional sprinkling of toasted rice powder and lime wedges to serve.