Delancey Vietnamese Noodle Salad
I’m always looking for fresh, easy, yet interesting week night meals for the us…by us I mean my husband and I, as we still eat on the couch after the kids go to bed. We like to kick it European style, eating around 8pm without anyone dropping food on the floor 27 times or asking for something the moment one of us starts eating.
Plus Ethan doesn’t do lettuce.
So big salads are a common thing in these parts, probably once a week at least. We’ve done Italian, garden, Greek, and clean-out-the-fridge-kitchen-sink varieties, but never Asian. So while reading Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, a pretty entertaining book about a foodie couple starting a wood-fired pizza restaurant just outside Seattle, I was intrigued by this Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad. Sure it had fish sauce in the dressing, something I’ve only ever used in curries (and with much anxiety, I mean, it’s fermented anchovy water) but it sounded refreshing and a great way to pack in some crunchy veg.
I tried it one night when we had lots of randomness in the fridge, including leftover baby bok choy, a few slices of grilled pork tenderloin, bell pepper remnants, and lacinato kale. Let me stop here and say, if you aren’t eating lacinato kale, you are missing out. It’s SO much more enjoyable in a salad than the curly variety. Anyway, I added shredded carrots, sliced cucumber and sugar snap peas (my fav!), plus a chopped green onion. We topped it with the delicious dressing—it’s not fishy, just sweet and light—some roasted peanuts, a little sriracha and BAM…it was incredible. And totally beautiful too.
While some of the ingredients may be new, I totally recommend giving this a whirl. Fish sauce and rice noodles aren’t too expensive (and I bet they are SUPER cheap at Jay’s International Market over on Grand Ave) and both will last in your fridge/pantry for a looooong time…you’ll make this again, be sure of it. And don’t stress about the other ingredients. Cabbage is extremely inexpensive but other crunchy greens you have around the house are totally fine, I always like to mix few together. The herbs are a must, at least cilantro and basil. Any protein will work, rotisserie chicken is especially tasty. Follow the recipe but substitute freely…it will be delicious. I’d say you can entertain with this dish too, the author recommends putting it on a large tray in the middle of the table and letting people dish out and dress it themselves.
Add some wine and it sounds like a party to me!
Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad
from Delancey, author Molly Wizenberg
serves 2 people, “big salad” style or 4 people as a side dish
3 TBSP fish sauce
3 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice (like ½ a lime)
2 to 3 TBSP brown sugar
6 to 8 TBSP water, to taste
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 fresh Thai chili, minced (I can’t find these peppers so I use a jalapeno or just a squirt of sriracha)
The Salad (add more of your choosing!)
4-6 ounces rice noodles (roughly the width of linguine)
2 handfuls napa cabbage, roughly sliced
1 handful kale, I prefer lacinato kale for salads
1 medium carrot, shredded or cut into matchsticks
½ cucumber, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
½ red or orange or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 handful sliced sugar snap peas
2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal
1 handful rough chopped fresh herbs, preferably a combination of basil, cilantro, and mint
6 ounces cooked meat, tofu or shrimp, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
½ cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
To prepare the dressing, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of the water, the garlic, and the chile. Whisk well. Taste: if it’s too pungent, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If you’d like more sweetness, add more brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Remember that you’re going to be putting this dressing on unsalted vegetables and noodles: you want the dressing to have a lot of flavor, but it shouldn’t knock you over. Pour into a serving bowl. (Covered and chilled, the dressing will keep for 3 days to a week.)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles, remove pot from heat. Let noodle sit in hot water until al dente, not mushy (or follow the package instructions for cooking the noodles). Immediately drain the noodles into a colander, make sure to get all the water out.
Divide the noodles between two or three good-sized bowls, depending on the number of diners, and top with the vegetables, herbs, and meat. Scatter the peanuts on top. Allow each person to spoon on dressing to taste. Toss well, and eat. (Alternatively, you can present this salad family-style: Toss the vegetables, herbs, and noodles in a mixing bowl and then mound them on a serving platter. Arrange the meat over the noodles, and top with peanuts. Each diner can scoop their own portion from the platter and dress it as they see fit.)