It still feels like it’s the middle of summer here in Greece and my small Athens apartment feels hot and cramped. On some days, when I’m slowly melting into the couch, I like to imagine I am a charming and graceful mermaid lounging on a large wet rock near the cold, blue ocean. A bit delusional, you say? Please, let me live my mermaid-fantasy and hear me out! While the heat may be slowly damaging my brain and potentially making me hallucinate a little, I am very sure that this refreshing mermaid noodle salad here definitely makes you feel like a mermaid, or merman when you are eating it.
I know, I know. You’ve seen salads like these before… and probably they were called ‘unicorn noodles’ and it was the year 2017. I am late to the party as always
but at least I am on time for the new The Little Mermaid live-action movie that will probably come out in two years. To be honest, though, I do think my noodles here are a bit more mermaid-y and a bit less unicorn-y, which makes them fairly unique…right? Besides, the mermaid theme makes more sense, since this refreshing salad is full of bright blue noodle strands (reminiscent of the sea), fresh prawns and scallops (more sea stuff), deep-fried crispy prawn heads (which are my absolute favourite thing about this salad, but they are optional for the squeamish amongst us), and crunchy vegetables (one of them is of the marine variety) all coated in a refreshing, zesty dressing that will slowly turn the noodles from blue into a light purple – it’s real magic, I tell you!
Okay, maybe it’s not real magic, but it sure looks magical. The noodles are ‘dyed’ not with chemical food-colouring, but with butterfly pea flowers. The most distinctive characteristic of butterfly pea flowers is that it will colour teas, cocktails and food such as rice, or noodles a deep blue hue and that it will change colour when the pH balance changes, which simply means it will turn purple when it comes in contact with something sour, such as vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice. For this salad, I’ve steeped glass noodles in some butterfly pea flower ‘tea’ until all the strands turned ocean blue and I serve it with a simple dressing that contains some lime juice (make sure you add a decent amount, the juice of 1 large or 2 small limes should do the trick).
This dish will definitely make a splash (Yeah. The puns are back.) at your dinner table! Divide the blue noodles, crunchy vegetables, juicy prawns, scallops and crispy deep-fried prawn heads over large bowls, so that most of the noodles stay visible and serve it with some of the dressing on the side. To make the magic happen, gently drizzle the dressing over the noodles and enjoy watching them change colour right there at the dinner table!
Tip: The ‘marine vegetable’ I’ve mentioned in this post is samphire. Since I like very salty food, I enjoy eating samphire raw after a good rinse under cold running water (and that’s how it’s used in this recipe). However, because samphire tends to be very salty, you can also decide to cook it in boiling water (or fry it in butter…) for a couple of minutes to get rid of some of the salt before adding it to this salad. If you find samphire too salty no matter in what manner it’s cooked, replace it with some extra spring onion, or some thin green (wild) asparagus.
Mermaid Noodle Salad (with Prawns, Scallops and Deep-Fried Prawn Heads)
- For the noodles:
- 120g dried glass noodles (mung bean vermicelli)
- 30 fresh, or dried pea flower buds
- 1.3l water
- For the dressing:
- 15ml light soy sauce
- 30ml Thai fish sauce
- 1 - 2 limes, juiced
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- ½ red chili, thinly sliced
- ½ tablespoon palm sugar
- Small knob of fresh ginger, grated
- 6 scallops
- 6 whole (tiger) prawns
- 80g carrots
- 80g radishes
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- 20g fresh samphire
- For the fried prawn heads [optional]:
- 6 prawn heads
- 2 – 3 tablespoons of flour
- Pinch of salt
- Sunflower oil for frying (about 600ml to 1l for a small, high-rimmed saucepan)
MethodNote that the long preparation time listed includes the 30 minutes (hands-off) time it takes to make the coloured water for the noodles.
- Prepare the coloured water for the noodles some time ahead of cooking: Fill a saucepan with the water. Add butterfly pea flowers and bring to a soft simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the water turns very blue, then take off of the heat. Let the flowers steep in the hot water for 30 minutes, or more until the liquid has cooled down.
- In the meantime, make the dressing: Combine all ingredients listed for the dressing. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Set aside until needed.
- And prepare the ingredients for toppings: Wash the vegetables. Grate the carrot, finely chop the spring onion and cut the radishes into thin discs. Thoroughly rinse the samphire*. Peel the prawns and reserve the heads [optional]. Refrigerate until needed.
- To colour the noodles: Soak noodles in the (cooled-off) coloured water for 10 minutes, then take them out. Bring the coloured water back to a boil, re-add noodles and cook for 3 more minutes, or according to instructions on the package until the noodles are soft. Drain and quickly rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Cook the seafood: Place a frying pan over medium-high heat. Rub a tiny bit of oil on each side of the scallops and place them in the hot pan. Sear on each side for 2 minutes, or until they are just cooked through, then remove from pan. Add the peeled prawns to the pan and cook them until opaque (only a few minutes), remove from pan.
- [optional] For the fried prawn heads: In a small saucepan, heat the oil for frying (make sure the oil is about 2 – 3cm deep). Dust the prawn heads with the flour and a pinch of salt. When the oil is hot enough, fry the heads until crispy and cooked for about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and let excess oil drip off on some kitchen paper.
- Assemble salad: Divide the noodles over bowls. Top the noodles with the grated carrots, sliced radish, chopped spring onion and samphire and place the cooked seafood and hot fried prawn heads (optional) on top. Serve with the dressing on the side and while the prawn heads are still hot and crispy.*See notes in post above on alternative way to prepare samphire.