Vietnamese Water Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Pork – Gỏi Rau Muốn Tôm Thịt

This Vietnamese water spinach salad with shrimp and pork belly is a must try.  It has a crunchiness from roasted peanuts and a different fish sauce salad dressing that I have never tried before. 

A friend’s mom in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma made a large tray this salad and I had the honor of trying it at her grandson’s birthday potluck party in 2015.   She was kind to give me detailed cooking directions and main ingredients. I just had to figure out the measurements for the sauce based on my memory of how it tasted.   I am so glad I am bilingual and can communicate fluently with my elders since this mom only speaks Vietnamese. I will always remember the glow and excitement on her face when I approached her to compliment and ask her to teach me how to make this salad.


3 bags of water spinach
2 limes
1 pound jumbo size shrimp or tiger shrimp
1.5 pound pork belly
2 liter water
1/2 cup fried shallots
1/2 cup crushed roasted peanuts
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

Salad dressing: multiply two times for this recipe
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoon Viet Huong fish sauce
2 Tablespoon sugar
3+ Thai chilies
1 teaspoon lime juice

Note: + add more to your preference.


1.  Separate and wash the stems and leaves of the water spinach.  Note:  When choose the water spinach, check to see if the stems are crisp and are big.  The stems should snap easily with your fingers. I have been craving this salad for a long time but don’t often come by a good batch of water spinach. Aged water spinach has stems that are flexible and very chewy.  That is something I avoid buying.
2.  Soak the stems in a large bowl of water.  Use a special tool specifically used to split the water spinach stems into 12 thin strips.  This tool is made in Vietnam and you may find it available at major Vietnamese markets.  I bought mine at Hiep Thai market in Garland, Texas.  This is my least favorite part about making this salad because it is time consuming.

3.  Squeeze one lime and reserve the juice in a bowl and set a side for the salad dressing.  Cut the rest of the limes and put the wedges in a large bowl of water.  Soak the split water spinach stems in this bowl for at least 30 minutes.

Mom would normally throw away the leaves but I don’t like to waste so I made a quick stir-fry water spinach with garlic dish.

4.  Then strain the water spinach stems in a colander.
5.  Prep the Shrimp and Pork:

Cook the shrimp in a skillet with one tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Cook the shimp until it is evenly colored.  Shelled the shrimp and slice it in halves.

Boil the pork bell.  Add enough water to cover the pork completely.   Pork is cooked when you can poke through its skin with a chopstick or fork easily.  Slice pork belly into small pieces.

6.  Make the salad dressing: (multiply ingredients by two)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoon Viet Huong fish sauce
2 Tablespoon sugar
3+ Thai chilies
1 teaspoon lime juice

7.  I roasted unsalted peanuts and toasted white sesame seeds.  I used store bought fried shallots but you can fried your own.  It’s basically slicing shallots into thin pieces and frying it to a golden crispy texture but I almost had the fire department coming last time attempting to make my own fried shallots. I gave up the idea of doing that.

8.  Now that you have everything prepped, you are ready to put the salad together.

Transfer the water spinach stems from the colander into a large mixing bowl. 

Add in the shrimp and pork belly. 


Mix well.  (I wore latex gloves.)


When you are ready to eat, top the salad with the fried shallots, sesame seeds, and crushed roasted peanuts to your preference.  Drizzle in the fish sauce salad dressing mixture.  Mix well and serve.   Enjoy! The first time I tried to take a pictorial demo was when my little chef was just 23-months-old!  The yellowing lighting was terrible so I finally had a chance to remake this pictorial with better lighting. 


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