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Water Chestnut Salad

From Su-Mei Yu, Cracking the Coconut

Serves: ?


  • Dressing:
    • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
    • 1 tbs. palm sugar or light brown sugar
    • 1 tbs. sugar
    • 2 tbs. fish sauce
    • 1/4 c. thick tamarine juice
  • 1/4 lb. cooked crabmeat
  • 1/4 lb. cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise
  • 6 oz. cooked chicken, turkey, or pork, sliced into thin, long strips
  • 1 tbs. lime juice
  • 2 tbs. unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely ground
  • 3 tbs. crispy sallots
  • 3 tbs. crispy garlic
  • 12-15 fresh water chestnuts, peeled, sliced into 1/8-inch disks
  • 4-5 fresh bird chiles, or 2-3 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 20 cilantro leaves, minced


  1. In small saucepan, combine dressing ingredients (except tamarind), and cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add tamarind juice and cook until thickened, another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine crabmeat, shrimp, and chicken. Pour on warm dressing; add lime juice and mix well. Let sit 10 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Toss well, garnishing with cilantro.


  • Fresh water chestnuts are hard to find, messy to peel, and fragile to slice. The recipe suggests using a cookie cutter to create fanciful shapes, but this strikes me as utter fantasy. Do not substitute canned water chestnuts. Fresh water chestnuts have a distinct sweet, nutty flavor. The only taste canned water chestnuts have is of the can they came in. You can substitute jicama, which is easier to peel and work with, but doesn't quite have the taste.
  • Crispy shallots and crispy garlic are available in Asian groceries. To make your own, slice fresh shallots very thin, deep fry at 350F until brown. Same with minced garlic. Beware: they will continue to cook after you take from oil, so drain on paper towels and spread out to expose to air. You can also use dried onion flakes and/or dried garlic (available in most grocery store spice racks).
  • The most successful time I made this dish, I made a number of alterations:
    • No crabmeat: I haven't been happy with the packed, canned crab that I've been buying. I toyed with the idea of a pre-cooked Dungeness Crab, but balked at the $9 pricetag.
    • Doubled the shrimp to 1/2 lb. Bought medium shrimp, peeled them, then sauteed them until translucent in a little oil with a crushed clove of garlic. I didn't split the shrimp.
    • I used small chunks of velveted chicken. (I was preparing another recipe that called for velveted chicken, so just scaled up the recipe, and divided the results.)
    • I forgot to add the lime juice. I got the order all wrong: mixed all of the salad together, then added the sauce. I mixed the tamarind into the sauce before heating. For "thick" tamarind juice, I used tamarind concentrate diluted with a little water.
    There's a picture in the cookbook that in no way resembles what I prepared.

Keywords: Thai, Salad, Water Chestnut.