Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spicy Asian Salmon & Rice Salad

This recipe was inspired by a Summer Rice Salad recipe contest sponsored by the USA Rice Federation.  The winners haven't been announced yet, but I think our recipe is a definite contender.  We decided on an Asian theme and Sean really wanted to incorporate nuoc mam, a tasty and spicy Vietnamese sauce we usually eat with egg rolls.  The flavors of the salmon, green onion, and fresh basil really come together for a deliciously fresh rice salad.  The carrot gives it some crunch, as does the optional fried rice to sprinkle on top.  This is best served at room temperature, or slightly cooled.  Enjoy!
4 cups medium-grain rice, cooked and at room temperature (about 2 cups uncooked rice, cooked according to directions with at least 1 teaspoon salt)  To bring the rice to room temp faster, spread it out onto a large platter or in a bowl.  
1/2 cup nuoc mam, divided (recipe below)
1 lb boneless skinless salmon filet
2 green onions, minced (white and green parts)
2 carrots julienned (thinly sliced)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced (save a few whole leaves for cooking the salmon)
oil for frying (optional- if you choose to do the fried rice topping) 
2 limes, juiced
For the nuoc mam:
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 Thai chili peppers, minced (more or less to taste, and you could use other types of hot peppers as well)
To make the sauce, heat the water in a small pot and add the sugar.  When fully dissolved, remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to use.  Makes about one cup.

Marinate the salmon in a zip-lock bag with 1/4 cup of the nuoc mam for 10 minutes.  Preheat the broiler of your oven.  Place a few basil leaves onto a baking dish and place the salmon on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and broil for about 12 minutes or until fully cooked through.  Place it on a plate and let it cool slightly.  Squeeze the juice of one lime over the fish.  Next, flake the salmon into small bite sized pieces.

Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of nuoc mam and lime juice over the rice and stir to combine well.  This gives the rice a delicious tangy and sweet flavor.  Add the green onion, carrots, and basil to the rice and stir to combine.  Finally, mix in the salmon.  

Taste for more salt and pepper.  For the optional crispy rice topping- heat some vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a small pot.  Put a couple spoonfuls of plain cooked rice in the hot oil and break it up with a heat-proof spatula.  
When it starts to brown, remove onto a paper-towel lined plate.  Break into small pieces and serve on top of the rice salad.  (this is what looks like crumbled bacon in the photos!)
Serve at room temperature.  This is delicious and healthy- makes a great lunch or dinner!

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