Thai-style Spaghetti Squash Salad

I believe that it is truly difficult to find a bad Thai restaurant. It might be mediocre, but to find one you would actually rate as bad (food-wise) is hard. There are so many flavors layered and blended in Thai food that they generally will mask over other flaws. Even a drive-thru Thai place works for me when I'm in a hurry or low on funds. Luckily I've learned a few Thai dishes so that I can quickly throw a Thai curry together or a Thai salad.

Earlier this year I had my dinner group challenge and this year's theme had been to draw a famous chef from a hat. I drew local star, Mai Pham. In one of her cookbooks she had a recipe that they use at nearby Lemon Grass, a kind of fake green papaya salad - a spaghetti squash salad. 

Green papaya can often be hard to find even in our town that has plenty of Asian groceries. It can also be pricey. Mai Pham's chefs discovered that they could cheat by using spaghetti squash instead.

shredding the squash into ice water

I lost that recipe (I had borrowed the cookbook). The thing about some Thai dishes is that once you learn the basic flavor combos, you can often whip something close up. That's what this recipe is - my attempt to recreate the Mai Pham spaghetti squash salad recipe.

Note:    This is a recipe that should be adapted to taste. For instance, we all like different amounts of heat, so you might want more or less chilis. Same with onions, etc. I also sometimes find I need more dressing, so you might need to increase the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar like I often do.

Thai-style Spaghetti Squash Salad

1 small-medium spaghetti squash
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small tomato, seeded, chopped
3-4 fresh red chilis, seeded and chopped
1/3 c fish sauce
juice from 2 limes or 2 T lime juice
1.5 T cane sugar (table sugar is OK)
1/2 pound of cooked and peeled shrimp (optional)
1/4 c torn Thai basil leaves

To cook the spaghetti squash, cut it in half and scoop out seeds. Place in a pot of boiling water and cook for 20 minutes. Drain the hot water and replace with cold water to stop it cooking and cool it down for handling. In a separate bowl, fill with cold water. Take the squash and with a fork, scrape the strands into the cold water bowl.  Place shredded squash in water in the refrigerator to chill for an hour. The coldness makes the strands crunchier.

Remove the squash from the frig and drain the water. Take the wet strands and spin them in a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible. You can also put them in a colander and let drain for at least half an hour. You may wish to put it back in frig to keep the chill.

Mix together remaining ingredients except basil. Toss with spaghetti squash strands. Garnish with basil leaves.

You can either serve immediately or let it all marinate for a while (my preference).