Vietnamese Style Noodle Salad
A short ride from The Chefs’ Warehouse in Las Vegas en route to my sister and brother in laws home in the section of Summerlin is one of my new happy places, Vietnamese ‘168 Market’
Stocking some basic pantry necessities, I strolled the aisles locating the goods squeezing each like a long lost friend before gently setting into the rolling food cart. Fish Sauce, Rice Vinegar, Hoisin, Oyster Sauce, Curry Pastes, Tamarind, Rice Noodles, and for today’s salad, Bean Thread Noodles.
Bean Thread Noodles often take on different descriptions, like Vermicelli, or in this case Corn Starch Vermicelli. In any event, to compose the Vietnamese style salad as we are sharing today, you are simply looking for the noodle package whose contents give the appearance of brittle white straw.
The stocked varieties of dried noodles in Asian markets is vast and can be a bit confusing. I’ve been in these aisles with Asian friends and even they don’t know the use on some of these multiple choices so to make it easier simply stick with the noodle that you need for a particular dish and you can always move forth from there.
Cooking Bean Thread Vermicelli Noodles is not difficult. There are a variety of preparations though. I soaked a batch of noodles in warm water to soften them while boiling the water, then salting before cooking, around five minutes, until just al dente taste, draining and immediately rinsing in a stream of cool water. Perfect texture. Some cooks will boil these more or less time. The key is to not overcook them for they will likely turn to mush.
Today’s same vermicelli noodles are also simply soaked in warm water to just soften up for use as an ingredient in the preparation of Vietnamese Spring Rolls. You can see them prepared in a previous post with my eldest daughter, Danielle aka Sooky, https://spicedpeachblog.com/sooky-prepares-spring-rolls/
There are in my mind many exceptional heights of flavor to this salad, not untypical with many Vietnamese dishes, the abundant use of fresh herbs, cilantro, mint, Thai basil composed along with a selection of fresh vegetables and a protein such as thin slices of grilled beef. The distinctive dressing, combines the balanced flavor of sugar sweetened between fish sauce, rice vinegar, and lime juice stirred with some garlic and hot pepper flakes. All I can say is Yow-wee what a healthy yet tasty fresh flavor explosion! Bon Appetit.
- 1 pound steak, seared and cooked to medium rare, rested, thinly sliced
- 2 cups bean sprouts, blanched for 10 seconds in boiling water, drained, rinsed in cool water, then dried lightly with paper toweling
- 1 long seedless cucumber, peeled, cut into matchstick sized pieces
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into matchstick sized pieces
- 1 large bunch fresh spinach, large stems removed, washed, dried
- 2-3 carrots, peeled, cut into matchstick sized pieces, cooked in salted boiling water until just tender, drained and rinsed in cool water
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, washed, separated into pieces
- 6-8 long sprigs fresh mint, stems removed
- 1 small bunch Thai basil
- 1 jalapeno or small hot red pepper, stem removed, thinly sliced
- wedges of lime for serving alongside salad
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- 1 bunch Vietnamese dried Bean Thread Noodles, soaked in warm water while boiling the water for cooking then cooked in the salted boiling water around 5 minutes, more or less depending on the power of your cooking range, until taste is al dente, drained, rinsed in cool water, snipped into small sized pieces using kitchen shears
- For the Sauce
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- juice of 2 limes
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 4 tablespoons sugar, plus more to desired sweetness
- 2-4 tablespoons water
- 2 cloves garlic, halved, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or a small sliced hot pepper
- Assemble noodles, meat and fresh ingredients on a platter for everyone to compose their own dish or prepare each salad bowl individually for serving
- Prepare the Dressing, Into a glass bowl add the fish sauce, rice vinegar, and lime juice, sprinkle in the sugar and stir to dissolve, spoon in 2 tablespoons water, adding up to two tablespoons more according to taste, add in the garlic and pepper flakes, stir
- Toss some sauce with the noodles and vegetables serving extra on the side for adding more dressing as desired
- Sprinkle peanuts on top
- Serve lime wedges and jalapeno or hot red pepper slices alongside
Feel free to use any combination of fresh vegetables on hand in your pantry when preparing this salad but be sure to include at least a couple of very fresh herbs. Pickled carrots and daikon radish are also alternatively commonly used.