Thai Herbal Seafood Salad (Isan Yum Yai)


Sa Wat Dee Kha! Hi There!

Here's a recipe from my relative LC, a born and bred Thai expat living in Hawaii's Big Island. This is one of the few Thai delicacies I'll share in my efforts to chronicle authentic Thai food. Isan Yum Yai salad is a quintessential example of a Thai dish since it incorporates the five tastes integral to this cuisine: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy.

This recipe is found more in the Southern part of Thailand, but keeping to her locavore philosophy, it's inspired by her present coastal surroundings. She makes this dish on special occasions. LC wrote, "This is a very herbal, healthy salad that's low in fat, high in lean protein and great for digestion. The beauty of Thai food is in its minimal processing and its fresh ingredients. Also, it will be more tasty if you have someone special to share it with~xoxo."

I totally agree about the health benefits of eating Thai food. I lost five pounds in two weeks (with no exercise!) the last time I visited my extended family in Thailand. The menu was mostly fresh fish, vegetables, fruit and a dairy/gluten-free diet. Free-range eggs were gathered every day and salads were harvested before meals. Singing peddlers came daily selling their specialties throughout the neighborhoods. Fresh home-made rice noodles (kway teow), forest greens and local caught fish came round in large hand-weaved baskets strapped to their tricycles.

Once you become more familiar with Thai ingredients, the easier it becomes to work with. Like any other cuisine, you'll start by using the same base ingredients in each recipe. You'll need a well stocked Asian pantry and an Asian purveyor that supplies a good range of fresh produce.* LC included her favorite brands in parentheses.

LC's Isan Yum Yai (Herbal Seafood) Salad

1/4 cup garlic, minced
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
1/4 cup coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped
3-5 young stalks of lemongrass, ends only-finely sliced
1/4 cup young kaffir lime leaves, central ribs removed~finely sliced
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Chinese celery, cut into 1 1/2 " pieces
1/4 cup young galangal root, thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted cashews
100 g. squid, sliced diagonally**
200 g. prawns, peeled and deveined
100 g. scallops, halved
50 g. mussels, beards removed

Salad Dressing:
3-5 fresh Bird's eye chillies, crushed (in a mortar) or minced
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp. fish sauce (Tiparos)
1 Tbsp. roasted chili paste (Pantai)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce (Healthy Boy mushroom sauce)
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. palm sugar


Bring a med-large pot of water to boil. Briefly cook the seafood until opaque (careful not to overcook to avoid a rubbery texture), drain and chill until ready to mix with the other ingredients. Meanwhile, clear enough space to prepare the vegetables.

For the salad dressing:

In a large bowl, mix the dressing ingredients first then add the remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly. Adjust to taste and enjoy!

*West Coast Import Food and Temple of Thai
*East Coast My Thai Grocer
** You can also use thawed, pre-frozen seafood. I used 1 lb. of fresh shrimps and 1/2 lb. of scallops. I also used regular celery and bell pepper, substituted Serrano chillies for Bird's eye chili and omitted the sugar. Improvise if you need to as long as the results are delicious and to your taste.

Leave a Reply

All Rights Reserved Copyright © 2022