I know the official start of summer is nearly here when I find myself standing in the kitchen all afternoon chopping vegetables. It's time to make Vietnamese Rice-Noodle Salad!
I made this for the first time last summer and was hooked. After that, I prepared it twice a week for the duration of the warm weather with nary a complaint from Sweet Child or Husband (maybe a surprised exclamation, "Oh, salad again!" but not a complaint...)
I could eat dishes from any country on the continent of Asia every night and Sweet Child is the same. Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese -- put a big bowl of noodles in front of that child and he'll happily slurp them up...
But, back to the salad... The idea of preparing a Vietnamese dish used to intimidate me, but I'm no longer daunted. This is easy, easy, easy and so, so good. Below is a recipe I've adapted. If you're curious and so inclined, you can search online and find dozens of other recipes.
Or, you can just try my recipe and call it a night!
VIETNAMESE RICE-NOODLE SALAD
-- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
-- 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional & not recommended if children will be sharing the meal!)
-- 1 TBL honey
-- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
-- 3 TBL fish sauce (nuac mam) *see note
-- 1 tsp. kosher salt
-- 8 oz. dried thin rice-noodles
-- 1-2 carrots, shredded or julienned
-- 1 English cucumber, julienned
-- a handful of fresh basil, chopped
-- a handful of cilantro, chopped
-- 3 cups napa cabbage, thinly sliced
-- 8 oz. marinated, baked tofu, sliced (you can add shrimp or chicken if you prefer)
-- a handful (or two) dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
Cut & place in large bowl carrots, cucumber, basil, cilantro, cabbage & tofu. Chop peanuts, mix with vegetables in bowl and put aside in the refrigerator.
Chop garlic and mix with honey, lime juice, salt & fish sauce. Put aside in the refrigerator.
Prepare noodles according to directions on package. Cool noodles quickly in ice water and then drain well. Combine noodles with vegetables & sauce. Serve with extra chopped peanuts, cilantro & basil (some prefer fresh mint, too) for sprinkling on top of salad according to preference.
*Note on fish sauce:
Yes, it's stinky, but it makes everything taste so good! If you want a vegan substitution, try a few tablespoons of mirin (Japanese cooking wine) plus a splash or two or soy sauce. Or, just add extra lime juice...
P.S. I never bother with a Cuisinart, but using one would definitely speed things along. I am, however, planning to find myself a mandoline slicer this weekend...