When the summer’s here but the clouds refuse to break so that the city is shrouded in a perpetual, temper-inducing fug of humidity, the only thing I fancy eating is a clean, Vietnamese pho. I’ve been meaning to try my hand at Vietnamese summer rolls for a while but couldn’t quite be bothered with the faff of rolling and packing the ingredients into a disc of rice paper, or whatever it is. Another time. Much quicker was this beautiful soupy salad, so fresh, so fragrant and so easy, the perfect thing for eating on my garden steps after work.
Using fresh prawns does make a difference, so if you get hold of a few, steam them in a covered colander or steamer until pink all over. In a deep soup bowl, whisk together the juice of 2 limes, several dashes of fish sauce, a few more of sesame oil and a trickle of soy sauce. Add a couple of tsps of sugar, a finely chopped stick of lemongrass (removing the tough outer leaves) and a finely chopped knob of ginger. Combine, adding a few good dashes of water from the tap to dilute. Check for a good sweet/sharp balance and adjust to taste. The dressing is really a cold, refreshing soup, filling the bottom of the bowl to be spooned up with the prawns and salad, so you may need to top up on some of the ingredients. When the prawns are cooked through, remove from the heat and replace with a few sugar snaps or mange touts, returning under the cover of a lid to steam for a couple of minutes only. Chop a few slices of iceberg lettuce and some julienned cucumber into the serving bowl and add to it a handful of bean sprouts and a small handful each of chopped mint and coriander. Peel the prawns and add to the bowl along with the mange touts. Combine everything and serve with finely sliced red chilli and a scatter of warmly toasted, unsalted peanuts. Amazing.