Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vietnamese Noodle Salad


To me, Vietnam has always been exotic and far away. I’ve seen stunning photos and heard incredible travel tales but I have not had the pleasure of visiting ... yet. Well, my brother, his wife and my sweet niece and nephews moved to Hanoi last week and will be living there for two years.  Amazing!  I’m excited to hear about their adventures and eventually to visit them and share some Vietnamese experiences with them.


Of course, I am also thinking of the food!  I’m looking forward to Vietnamese cooking and need to get a good book (any recommendations?).  When I think of Vietnamese food I’ve eaten in restaurants, fresh herbs, vibrant flavors and spicy heat come to mind.   Plates piled high with basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce accompany the dishes I order.  My taste buds tingle as I inhale the fragrances and begin eating.


In honor of Tim and Kristen departing with their family, I started chopping and tasting to create a Vietnamese noodle salad in my own kitchen.  Fresh herbs were foremost on my mind, along with soft rice noodles and crisp vegetables. Vietnamese cooking evokes tastes of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.  To achieve this balance, I squeezed limes, chopped garlic, minced chili peppers and crumbled brown sugar. Fish sauce added a depth of flavor – umami if you will – that pulled the dressing together.


The salad became a tangled, pretty web of bright flavors, gentle heat and crunchy textures.  We eagerly ate bowls of the salad while discussing the first photos and tidbits from Tim’s new life.  I wish them a wonderful, delicious time in Hanoi!

Vietnamese Noodle Salad
Serves 6-8

For the salad
8 ounces thin rice noodles
1 cucumber, roughly chopped
2 bunches (10 or so) green onions, sliced diagonally
3/4 pound snap peas, sliced in half lengthwise
3 medium carrots, sliced thin and diagonally
1 cup mint, roughly chopped
1 cup basil, roughly chopped
3 red jalapeno (fresno) peppers, slivered lengthwise
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts, chopped

For the dressing
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup fish sauce (nuoc mam)
Zest of 2 limes
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 red jalapeno (fresno), chopped

Bring a large pan of water to a boil, immerse the rice noodles in it and let them sit for 10 minutes.  Drain the noodles when they are soft and rinse in cool water.

On a large platter or in a large bowl, combine the remaining salad ingredients (reserve some peanuts to garnish) and mix in the rice noodles.  I used my hands since bits kept flying off my platter.

In a food processor, combine all of the dressing ingredients and whiz until smooth. Pour half of the dressing over the salad and gently toss to mix in.  Add the remaining dressing slowly and to taste.  Sprinkle the reserved peanuts over and serve.

16 comments:

  1. I should make this and (sort of, since it was Cambodian) remember our lunch together with Molly!

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    1. Love it, Sara! What a terrific lunch together - I'd happily return, especially with you and Molly. :)

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  2. This salad sounds so clean & fresh & bursting with herbs! I love the complex results you can get by just selecting good ingredients, slicing them up, and mixing them all together. :)

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    1. So true, Eileen! Simple ingredients can shine alone or explode with new flavor when combined. Nice to enjoy in both forms!

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  3. Paul really wants to go eat his way through Vietnam. I'm always telling him, "let's save our money to go to Europe and we'll just go to the Pho place tonight." You can tell where my priorities lie...

    How exciting to get to visit and have family to show you around. I've heard the beaches are really beautiful. And the food is yummy. Maybe Paul has a point after all.

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    1. I think you both have good points, Lauren - my travel wish-list is quite long! Vietnam is our next big adventure and we can't wait to see my brother's new life. Visiting a local is always the best way to see a new place. Now I just need to get to know someone local in Italy...

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  4. I love Vietnamese food! It's always refreshing and simple and I feel good after I eat a whole plate. This salad looks wonderful Hannah! It's best to visit when you know someone in the country. Hope you get to visit when your brother settled down in Vietnam. :-)

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    1. Thank you, Nami! I agree, I do feel good after eating Vietnamese. We're fortunate to have terrific Vietnamese restaurants in Seattle and now I look forward to incorporating some into my home cooking. We definitely plan to visit my brother - can't wait to share in a bit of his new life!

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  5. Looks delicious! If you haven't been I highly recommend you try Grean Leaf in the International District. Great food and a very sweet spot. Try the Vietnamese Pancake...to die for!

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    1. Hi, Erina! Yes - Green Leaf is amazing! I had the Vietnamese pancake with tofu and couldn't stop eating. I need to go back. Another restaurant I want to try is Long Provincial (same owners as Tamarind Tree). Love all we have here!

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  6. Such a vibrant salad and full of flavor! A perfect summer dinner, when only something cool yet robust will satisfy the craving for a light yet satisfying meal.

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    1. Thank you, Deb! Summer dinners truly are a wonderful way to appreciate fresh veggies - keep it simple and let the flavors shine.

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  7. Fantastic salad....love all the herbs. Have you tried Vietnamese mint? It is quite different, fragrant & a little soapy even! But it is great in salads :)

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    1. Thanks, Mairi! I haven't seen Vietnamese mint but will be on the lookout now...I appreciate you letting me know about it. You can't go wrong with bundles of fresh herbs!

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  8. This looks great - I love the flavors and all the veg!

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    1. Thank you, Alyssa! The flavors of Vietnamese cooking are so enticing and tempting - I'm hooked! :)

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