There is a Vietnamese restaurant called Present in Falls Church, VA that my mother and I love. The food is absolutely delicious, and the atmosphere far surpasses that of all of the other Vietnamese restaurants in the Falls Church/Eden Center area. For those of you unfamiliar with that area of Virginia, it is Vietnamese restaurant central. Some of our other favorites in the area include Huong Viet and Viet Royale. If you're in the area you really have to check them out. Try the butter-fried frog legs and lotus root salad at Huong Viet, and the banh xeo and caramel shrimp at Viet Royale. But if you go to Present, you absolutely have to try two things - the "Treasure of the Sea" (a fantastic salad made with pineapple, carrot, onion, lemongrass, fried garlic, roasted peanuts, tiger shrimp, and calamari) and the "Silken Shawl Imperial Autumn Roll" (the best pork and shrimp stuffed Vietnamese spring roll that you have ever had).
Today for lunch I decided to try and make a version of their "Treasure of the Sea" using large shrimp, pineapple, red onion, cilantro, mint, roasted salted peanuts, lime juice, fish sauce and a touch of sugar. I can't claim that my version of the salad is anywhere near as good as the one they serve at Present, but it was still a really nice fresh, tasty lunch on a warm late spring/early summer day. The next time I make the salad I think I will add in calamari for variety and perhaps some fried shallots for crunch.
Recipe (and pictures of the food at Present) after the jump!
Shrimp and Pineapple Salad
1 lb. large shrimp, shells removed and deveined
juice of 2 limes, roughly 3 tbsp
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 cups pineapple, cored and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced
1/2 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp mint, finely chopped
1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss shrimp with enough evoo to lightly coat the shrimp (roughly 1 1/2 tsp) and s&p. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread shrimp out on the baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until shrimp are opaque, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
In a small non-reactive bowl, stir together lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar to make the dressing. There should be a good balance of tart lime flavor, saltiness from the fish sauce, and sweetness from the sugar. Depending on how sweet your pineapple is you might want to either reduce the amount of sugar or add more. Set aside. In a large, non-reactive mixing bowl, combine cooked shrimp, pineapple, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, and mint. Stir to mix ingredients together. Add dressing and toss ingredients to coat. Season to taste with additional s&p, if desired.
Photos from Present Cuisine (imperial rolls, tamarind duck, and "Warm Heart Piglet"):