I got a bit obsessed with Vietnamese food in 2005 after discovering the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road. My dad worked in Vietnam so luckily we had Nicole Routhier’s ‘The Foods of Vietnam’ at home. There are loads of great recipes in this cook book and my favourite is this crunchy noodle salad (I wooed Lewis with this dish!!). It is seriously good!
Noodles are symbolic in Chinese culture for a long life and this morning at 3 am a new addition to the family arrived – a little red head baby girl! Lexie’s cousin and my niece. I can’t think of a better dish to make today so Lex and I celebrated by going to the market to get all the veg – I couldn’t resist buying the mini cucumbers!
I used roast chicken leftovers but this dish is equally nice without meat or perhaps with prawns. It is a cold salad and fantastic in summer but also clean and zingy enough to fit a January detox. It’s even better at this time of year served alongside a pho or Hugh Fearnley’s poached chicken with star anise (recipes to follow). A quick warning: it is faffy chopping up all the veg but it smells incredible – all that fresh mint and coriander. It’s also a very cheap dish once you’ve invested in the required condiments.
If I’m making these noodles for Lexie I do a separate dressing without chilli. And if we’re not eating together I put aside some of the shredded veg and herbs in a tupperware. Then when she’s having it, I’ll cook the noodles and make the chilli-free dressing from scratch before mixing it all together.
Vietnamese chicken noodle salad
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 5-10 mins
- 1 cucumber, julienned in a food processor or cut in thin slices
- 2 carrots, julienned or grated
- 2 handfuls of shredded white cabbage or chinese leaf cabbage
- Lots of chopped coriander
- Lots of chopped mint
- Fresh lime halves
- Chopped salted peanuts
- Chicken slices
- Rice noodles
For the dressing
- 3 tablespoons of groundnut or sunflower oil
- 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
- 1 or 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar (to taste, I usually do 1 tbsp but recipe is 1 1/2)
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 knob of grated ginger
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (to taste)
- 1 chopped red chilli – leave this out if making for kids unless they ‘do spicy’ – Lexie’s words – she doesn’t ‘do spicy’.
Start by making the dressing as it’s nicer if it’s sat for a while. Get a bowl and add the oil, vinegar and fish sauce. Mix in the garlic, ginger and chilli then add the sugar and stir till it’s dissolved. A tip for chopping chilli is to either wear rubber gloves or use scissors. That way you don’t need to worry about getting any chilli on your little one. Then cover and set aside.
To make the salad do all the chopping and shredding then it’s a simple assembly job. Mix the carrot, cucumber and cabbage. Add the chopped fresh herbs and chicken slices. I also use scissors to chop herbs, sometimes like my 97 year old granny-in-law does, with the herbs in a glass so you can chop them very finely with the scissors.
Cook your rice noodles as per the packet then, once done, you can either mix the noodles in with the veg or serve separately. Finish the dressing by mixing in the fresh lime then pour all over the salad. If you won’t eat all the salad in one sitting only dress what you are eating – it doesn’t keep well once dressed. Garnish with the chopped peanuts and some slices of lime and serve! Ideally with an ice cold beer or some jasmine tea.
PS: I love these chopsticks – Lewis and I bought them in Peru from an amazing Japanese restaurant. We were so grateful to all the Japanese immigrants in S America whose restaurants saved us from the ubiquitous meat, rice and beans or ham and cheese toasties.