My Vietnamese rice paper salad brings all the flavors and textures with crispy mango, spicy beef jerky, salty dried shrimp, quail eggs, heady rau ram, fried shallot, and roasted peanuts tossed in a tangy tamarind sauce.
With mango in peak season right now, I’ve seen all kinds of mangoes from Mexico, California, Vietnam, and Thailand at the Asian grocery stores. While I love snacking on the sweet champagne or Ataulfo mangoes, I enjoy making salads with the unripe green mangoes. These green mangoes bring back memories of the Vietnamese rice paper salad, or bánh tráng trộn, that I used to eat everyday during my pharmacy rotation in Saigon. I would buy a bag of cold sugarcane juice along with the rice paper salad sold in a little plastic bag with a set of chopsticks to enjoy during my bus ride home from Saigon to Thu Duc. The salad came with julienned green mango, beef jerky, dried squid/shrimp, quail eggs, rau ram, fried shallots, roasted peanuts, and a tangy tamarind sauce. It’s an affordable and fun snack popularized by Vietnamese students and sold by street vendors around schools, universities, and bus stops. Now you can enjoy the taste of this Vietnamese street food from the comfort of your own kitchen!
- Mango: for this salad use green unripe Vietnamese or Thai mangoes. They are easily found at Asian supermarkets. If you cannot find green mango, green papaya is the perfect substitute. Store the mango in the fridge to prevent ripening. Cut the mango into strips about 3-5 inches in length and ⅛ of an inch thick. I used a mandoline but you can easily accomplish this with a very sharp knife if you don’t own one.
- Rice paper: Rice papers come in different thickness. Use the thinnest rice papers you can find so they can absorb the tamarind dressing easily. Cut the rice paper into strips with your kitchen shears between half to one inch wide. My favorite rice paper brand is Three Ladies.
- Quail eggs: quail eggs are traditionally used for this recipe. You can also substitute with two large eggs and cut them into smaller pieces if you can't find quail eggs.
- Beef Jerky: Vietnamese beef jerky is commonly found at Asian grocery stores and delis. I like the ones from Bac Cu Beef Jerky with the curry flavor.
- Crispy tiny shrimp: these tiny shrimp lend an umami taste to the rice paper salad. They are quite pungent and completely optional if you're not into shrimp.
- Shrimp powder: the shrimp powder with chili adds a bit of saltiness, heat, and umami to the salad. Use it sparingly. It's quite pungent like the crispy tiny shrimp so prepare yourself when you open the bottle.
- Rau ram: also known as Vietnamese coriander. This is the main herb used in the salad.
- Fried shallots: you can make your own fried shallots here. I buy dried shallots and fry them with a little bit of vegetable oil for a few minutes until golden.
This is the brand of crispy tiny shrimp that I used. They're available at the Asian grocery stores and online. I always keep a jar in my pantry for topping on salad. They're crunchy and fun to eat.
This shrimp powder with chili is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. You can use it to flavor salads, soups, and curries. It's commonly found in the the Asian grocery stores and online.
I'll let you in on a little secret, cut half of your prep time with these prepackaged Vietnamese rice paper salad kits! A kit costs around $3 at the Vietnamese grocery stores and it has almost everything you need for the salad. You just need to prepare the mango, beef jerky, roasted peanuts, rau ram, and dipping sauce.
How to Assemble the Salad
Once you have all the components for the rice paper salad, add the mango strips, cut rice papers, beef jerky, crispy tiny shrimp, quail eggs, and rau ram to a large plate. Drizzle the tamarind sauce and toss gently to combine. Continue adding the sauce and tossing until the rice papers have softened. Sprinkle the shrimp powder over the top and toss again. Add fried shallots, roasted peanuts, and sliced bird's eye chilis before serving.
Quick, delicious, and bursting with flavors, this Vietnamese rice paper salad makes the perfect summer crowd pleaser. With every bite, you get crispy mango, spicy beef jerky, salty dried shrimp, quail eggs, heady rau ram, fried shallot, and roasted peanuts tossed in a tangy tamarind sauce. Every time I eat this salad, it takes me back to those days wandering the streets of Saigon and enjoying the street food scene.
Vietnamese Rice Paper Salad
- 1 green mango, about 1 pound, shredded
- 4 oz rice paper, cut into thin strips
- 10 quail eggs, cooked
- 1 oz beef jerky
- 1 oz crispy tiny shrimp
- 1 teaspoon shrimp powder with chili
- 2 tbsps fried shallots
- 2 tbsps roasted peanuts
- ½ cup Vietnamese mint (rau ram)
- 2 oz tamarind paste
- ½ cup boiling water
- 2 tbsps fish sauce
- 2 tbsps sugar
- 1 bird's eye chili
- To make the tamarind sauce, soak the tamarind paste in boiling water for 5 minutes breaking up any chunks with a spoon. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Pass the mixture through a sieve to get the tamarind water.
- Whisk ¼ cup of tamarind water with fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl until well combined. Set aside the sauce.
- Cut the rice paper into strips with your kitchen shears between half to one inch wide.
- Peel mango and halve, then discard the seed. Cut the mango into strips about 3-5 inches in length and ⅛ of an inch thick using a mandoline or a very sharp knife and place the shredded mango in a bowl of ice cold water to keep it crisp.
- In a large bowl, combine rice paper strips, shredded mango, beef jerky, crispy tiny shrimp, quail eggs, and Vietnamese mint. Toss to combine. Drizzle some of the tamarind sauce over the salad and toss again until the rice papers have softened.
- Top the salad with shrimp powder, fried shallots, and roasted peanuts and serve immediately.