This lotus stem salads packs a ton of flavor with the crisp pickled vegetables, sweet prawns, heady herbs, fried shallot, toasted peanuts, and a tangy spicy dressing.
Vietnamese lotus stem salad, or gỏi ngó sen, was the very first salad that I fell in love with. Throughout my childhood, I remember my mom making this salad for all the special occasions especially birthday celebrations and family gatherings. It’s easy to make and great for feeding a large crowd. The traditional Vietnamese lotus stem salad has both prawns and pork but I prefer making it with just prawns. I love the crunchy pickled lotus stems, carrots, and daikon along with the sweet prawns, fresh herbs, fried shallots, and roasted peanuts tossed in a tangy dipping sauce.
How to Prepare the Lotus Stem
Lotus stems come in a glass jar and can be found at your local Asian supermarkets. Buy the jar with thinner stems that are in a brine solution with just water and salt, no added sugar or vinegar. They are more tender and less stringy compared to the thicker ones. Rinse them thoroughly then trim them to 2 inches in length. For the thicker lotus stems, split them in half. If they feel tough on the outside, take a paring knife and peel the outer skin. Pickle them for 2 hours for the salad.
How to Pickle the Root Vegetables
I use the same pickle juice for the carrots and daikon. Cut the carrot and daikon into thin matchsticks about 2 inches long and ⅛ inches thick. Pickle them for 2 hours until you're ready to assemble the salad.
How to Prepare the Prawns
To prepare the prawns for cooking, cut the shell along the spine with your kitchen shears. Use a skewer or your fingers to remove the black intestinal thread. This black line running down the spine of the prawn will add a gritty texture to the prawns. Give them a quick rinse under cold water. Bring a large pan of water to a steady boil, drop in the prawns, and simmer until they change color, about 3-4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain them, peel the shells, and split them in half. Set the prawns aside until ready to assemble the salad.
What Vietnamese Herbs to Use for the Salad
Three of my favorite Vietnamese herbs for pairing with the lotus stem salad are Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), Thai basil (húng quế ), and Vietnamese perilla (tiá tô). You can use one or a combination of them. Roughly chop or tear up the larger leaves for the salad.
What Other Garnishes to Include in the Salad
To make this salad complete, you need the crunch factor from the roasted peanuts and fried shallots. Both are staples in Vietnamese cooking.
When to Assemble the Salad
I like to assemble the lotus root salad right before serving but feel free to make it a two hours before and store it in the fridge. Toss the lotus stems, carrots, daikon, herbs, and prawns together. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Top the salad with roasted peanuts and fried shallots before serving.
What to Serve the Salad With
The lotus stem salad can be paired with jasmine rice or prawn crackers (bánh phồng tôm). The latter is my favorite. You can find uncooked prawn crackers at the Asian grocery stores or online. Simply fry them in canola oil until they puff up. Use the prawn crackers to scoop up the salad and enjoy!
This lotus stem salads packs a ton of flavor with the crisp pickled vegetables, sweet prawns, heady herbs, fried shallot, toasted peanuts, and a tangy spicy dressing. It's incredibly refreshing and perfect for those days when you want to throw together a quick dinner.
For more salad inspiration, check these recipes: Vietnamese rice paper salad, green mango salad with grilled tom yum prawns, Vietnamese papaya salad with beef jerky, Vietnamese shaking beef with watercress.
Vietnamese Lotus Stem Salad with Prawns
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 oz lotus stems, cut to 2 inches long
- 6 oz carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks ⅛th-inch thick and 2 inches long
- 6 oz daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks ⅛th-inch thick and 2 inches long
- 1 lb prawns, deveined
- ¼ cup Vietnamese coriander, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup fried shallots
- 2 tbsps roasted peanuts
- Prawn crackers or jasmine rice for serving
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ½ cup water
- 6 tbsps sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 bird's eye chili, thinly sliced
- To make the pickle liquid, combine water, vinegar, and sugar in a bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
- Divide the pickle juice into three bowls. Add lotus stems, carrots, and daikon separately in each bowl. Let the vegetables pickle for 2 hours.
- Fill a large pot with 1.5 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add deveined prawns and reduce heat to medium. Let prawns cook for 3-4 minutes until pink and meat is no longer clear.
- Remove prawns and put them in a bowl filled with iced water.
- When prawns are cool enough to handle, remove the shell and split them in half. Set aside until ready to use.
- To make dressing, combine everything in a bowl and whisk together until combined. Set aside until ready to serve.
- When ready to assemble salad, drain lotus stems, carrot, and daikon.
- In a large bowl, combine prawns, pickled lotus stems, carrots, daikon, and Vietnamese coriander. Pour half of the dressing over salad and toss to combine.
- Transfer to a salad platter and garnish with peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with reserved dressing and prawn crackers.