This recipe for Vietnamese style Prawn and Calamari Salad is the third recipe inspired by my recent trip to Vietnam with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The other recipes are the delicious Massaman Curry from Thailand and Khmer Chicken Soup from Cambodia. We spent the Vietnamese leg of the trip on Phu Quoc Island so I think it is fitting that the recipe for this post is a crunchy and colourful seafood dish as we head into spring.

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

South East Asia is one of the most popular holiday destinations for South Africans with its vibrant culture, iconic street food, world-renowned beaches and value for money attracting visitors from all over the world. But these destinations offer so much more outside of the popular and well-known locations where authentic food experiences can be discovered and enjoyed. The Southern Tourism Corridor is a tourism cooperation corridor among Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established in 2007, with Myanmar invited to join in August 2018. Some of the provinces included in Thailand are Rayong and Chanthaburi, Kampot in Cambodia and Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam and I was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to explore the corridor from a gastronomy perspective.

From Kampot in Cambodia, head to the Prek Chak Border and cross into Vietnam at the Xa Xia Border. Stop for a traditional Vietnamese lunch at The Sammy Hotel in Ha Tien before heading to the Ha Tien Pier and board the Phu Quoc Express to Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam.

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Sunrise in Phu Quoc

The island is Vietnam’s biggest island, just off the coast of Cambodia with 20 beaches, mostly visited by local tourists. Dotted with beach resorts catering to all budgets, the gastronomy offering might not be the best example of traditional Vietnamese cuisine for foodies looking for the real experience.

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Duong Dong Market

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Duong Dong Market

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Duong Dong Market

But it is at the markets where you will find the real Vietnam. Duong Dong is the largest town on the island with a vibrant market to match. Located next to the river also called Duong Dong, the morning market offers the freshest produce, seafood, poultry and meat. Enjoy the sunrise reflecting on hundreds of fishing boats moored on the riverbank followed by walk down Nguyen Trung Truc Street and take in the vibrancy and energy of the market as the sun rises. Just be careful of the motorbikes hooting at you to get out of the way if you walk too slow!

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Fresh seafood coming in at the harbour

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Fresh seafood coming in at the harbour

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Fresh seafood coming in at the harbour

The Cau Sau market is an evening market that sets up shop on one lane of the DT46 highway. This makes navigating the market even more trickier than usual, as cars speed past while locals on motorbikes stop to buy seafood, vegetables and snacks before jumping back on their motorbikes, heading home with their purchases. There is so much to take in and see but here you need to be aware of being in the way of motorbikes and cars. 

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Cau Sau market

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Cau Sau market

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Cau Sau market

For a more tranquil experience head to the Truc Lam Ho Quoc Buddhist temple, climb to the top and enjoy a magical sunset with probably the best view in Phu Quoc. Or take the Hon Thom cable car to Pineapple Island and back. The cable car is one of the longest in the world (8km) and offers a breathtaking view of some of the 28 islands that make up the Phu Quoc district.

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Truc Lam Ho Quoc

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Hon Thom cable car

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Pineapple Island

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

We enjoyed a prawn and calamari salad one evening in Phu Quoc and I loved all the textures and flavours of the dish. I especially liked the idea of spooning some salad on a prawn cracker and eating it this way. The crackers provide loads of texture as you eat the salad. It really is a no fuss dish and you can easily replace the prawn cracker with a savoury biscuit if you’d like.

One of the most wonderful things in life is a chance to see something for the first time and even though Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are well known destinations they offer so much more to see and taste when veering off the usual routes. Not only do you get to see something for the first time but you get to see and taste in a very authentic way.

I hope you enjoyed traveling with me through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and this recipe for Vietnamese Inspired Prawn and Calamari Salad. If you’ve made the recipe share it with me by tagging @heinstirred on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #heinstirred. And click here for more moments from the Vietnam leg of the trip. 

The visit was made possible by Tourism Authority of Thailand

Prawn and Calamari Salad and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Vietnam

Ingredients

  • Oil for frying
  • 250g uncooked prawns, peeled
  • 250g calamari tentacles, sliced
  • 4 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 large cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 10g mint leaves, stalks removed
  • Handful sliced spring onions
  • 50g mung bean sprouts
  • Dressing
  • 40ml lime juice
  • 40ml cup fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 1-2 red chilies peppers sliced
  • Prawn Crackers to serve

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and set aside
  2. Using paper towel, pat the prawns and calamari dry
  3. Heat a frying pan to very hot, add a splash of oil and flash fry the prawns and calamari in batches
  4. Place the seafood in the dressing as you remove it from the pan and let it marinate for 10 minutes or so
  5. Place the carrots, cucumber, mint, spring onions and sprouts in a salad bowl and mix
  6. Remove the seafood with a slotted spoon from the dressing, add to the vegetables and toss it all together
  7. Spoons some of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat
  8. Serve with prawn crackers
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Khmer Chicken Soup and Feasting off the Beaten Track in Cambodia

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