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Those noodles were so. damn. good. This is partly because Thien always used fresh rice noodles, which he purchased from a shop called Ding Ho near Reading Terminal Market, where they were made daily and sold in large sheets, folded and wrapped in oily cellophane to prevent them from drying out. If Thien ever disappeared midmorning, chances were he had snuck out on his bike to pick up the noodles, which he stashed in the plastic take-out bag on the shelf beneath his work station.
I always marveled at how efficiently Thien worked. Before chopping an herb or slicing a vegetable, he would throw a sauté pan over a burner set over low heat to warm up, ready for anything he might need to crisp or cook. And in no time, all of the other elements would materialize: the dressing, nuoc cham, the spicy, sweet, sharp condiment ubiquitous at nearly every Vietnamese meal; the chopped herbs, a mix of cilantro and Thai basil; the julienned vegetables, often cucumbers and carrots; and some sort of meat, often shrimp, which he would throw into his warm pan, heat now cranked to high, with oil, garlic and chilies.
When everything was ready, he unwrapped the noodles, sliced them into wide strips, and piled them into bowls. He then topped each heap of noodles with the various herbs, vegetables and meat, before pouring the dressing over top. He never tossed everything together all at once-we tossed with chopsticks as we ate, which kept the vegetables crisp and the herbs fresh. These noodles made me sweat-Thien made the nuoc cham very spicy-but somehow I always finished feeling refreshed.
With every heatwave we get, I think of these noodles, and Thien, too, who sadly is no where to be found. Thien was often difficult to work for, and he had issues, the extent of which I never learned, but there was so much good, too-good stories, good food, good drink, and really, really good noodles. Here’s to that.
Here’s a visual how-to guide:
Rice Noodles with Nuoc Cham, Herbs, & Crispy Tofu
These noodles are inspired a dish a chef I worked for in Philadelphia often made for lunch during the summer.
If you like video, you can watch a how-to in Instagram stories.
Nuoc cham is a spicy, sweet, sharp condiment ubiquitous at nearly every Vietnamese meal. When using it as a dipping sauce, , you can omit the water.
In place of shrimp or other meat (see story above), I made Sarah Jampel’s crispy sesame tofu on Food52 ages ago and absolutely loved it. I adjusted the recipe here slightly for simplicity: instead of using 2 teaspoons soy sauce, I use 2 teaspoons of the nuoc cham dressing, and I omit the sesame oil. If you wish to follow her original recipe, . For some visual guidance on pressing tofu, see this post.
If tofu isn’t your thing, grilled or sautéed shrimp would be delicious as would really any protein you like: I’d serve them with grilled chicken thighs, skirt steak, or pork tenderloin, to name a few.
I like to slice cucumbers on a , but if that scares you, simply slice them thinly using your knife. Carrots or radish or daikon would all be nice here, too. A sprializer is a good tool for this as well and also less scary than using a mandoline.
for the nuoc cham dressing:
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
2 to 3 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
2 red Thai chilies or serrano or jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
squirt Sriracha, optional
for the tofu:
14-oz block extra-firm tofu, pressed if you have time
2 tablespoons oil such as peanut, vegetable or olive
2 teaspoons nuoc cham dressing, see notes
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon panko
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
for the noodle dish:
8 oz dried rice noodles
6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts
1 cucumber or carrot or other vegetable, thinly sliced, see notes
herbs: cilantro, mint, Thai basil (if you can find it), thinly sliced
nuoc cham dressing to taste
crispy tofu or other protein of choice, see notes
Make the nuoc cham dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the garlic, chilies, and 1/4 cup of the water. Add Sriracha, if using. Taste and adjust flavors if necessary with more lime, hot chilies, and the remaining 1/4 cup water if desired. Set aside.
To make the tofu: Heat the oven to 400° F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Add the oil, nuoc cham, corn starch, panko, and sesame seeds, and stir to coat. Spread the tofu onto the baking sheet, leaving excess dressing behind. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden and crisp on top and bottom.
To assemble the noodles: Fill a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Boil according to package instructions, typically 4-6 minutes. Drain and rinse until cold water. (Notes: To prevent sticking, you could toss the noddles in a few drops of sesame (or other) oil). Transfer noodles to a large bowl. Add the scallions, cucumbers or other vegetables, herbs, and dressing to taste. Toss. Add more dressing if necessary. Add tofu or other protein and toss again.
Keywords: rice, noodles, nuoc, cham, crispy, tofu, herbs, cucumber, scallions
Summer is in full swing, and here in New York City at least, that means swampy weather, sweaty commutes to and from work, and very little desire on the part of this food blogger to stand over the stove for an extended period of time. Enter: This Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Chicken.
A Summery Meal with Minimal Stove Time!
It’s easy to understand why one would look for this refreshing, tasty Vietnamese rice noodle salad on a hot swampy day, whether you’re on the streets of Vietnam or in your stuffy city apartment.
The rice noodles cook in no time at all, and the only other stove task you need to do is searing a few chicken thighs, which can be done in less than 10 minutes.
The rest of the ingredients are served raw–crunchy bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, and herbs, all smothered in that ubiquitous and delicious Vietnamese condiment, nuoc cham.
If you’re unfamiliar with nuoc cham, it’s a rather thin sauce with salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. Fish sauce, lime juice/vinegar, garlic, sugar, and chili are combined with a bit of water, and It. Is. Delicious.
It’s used as a dipping sauce or condiment, but in this situation, you can think of it as your dressing for this Vietnamese noodle salad.
So if the summer heat is getting you down, this Vietnamese rice noodle salad recipe is guaranteed to perk you back up. Here’s how to make it!
In a medium bowl, combine 4 chicken thighs with all the marinade ingredients (garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and vegetable oil), and set aside for 30 mins to an hour while you prepare the other salad ingredients.
For the chicken & marinade:
For the nuoc cham sauce:
To assemble the bowls:
TheWoksofLife.com is written and produced for informational purposes only. While we do our best to provide nutritional information as a general guideline to our readers, we are not certified nutritionists, and the values provided should be considered estimates. Factors such as brands purchased, natural variations in fresh ingredients, etc. will change the nutritional information in any recipe. Various online calculators also provide different results, depending on their sources. To obtain accurate nutritional information for a recipe, use your preferred nutrition calculator to determine nutritional information with the actual ingredients and quantities used.
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken thighs with your marinade ingredients, and set aside for 30 mins to an hour while you prepare the other salad ingredients.
Combine all the nuoc cham ingredients and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved into the sauce. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients if desired.
Boil the rice vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Set aside in a colander.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or frying pan over medium high heat. You could also heat a grill pan or grill for this. Sear the chicken for about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Set aside on a plate.
To assemble the salad, combine the rice noodles with bean sprouts, julienned carrots and cucumber, romaine lettuce, mint, and cilantro. Slice the chicken thighs and add to the salad. Serve with your nuoc cham sauce.
This Vietnamese noodle salad is one of those recipes that has been hanging around as a favorite staple in our kitchen for years. Literally years. I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve made it. Correction: How many times my husband has made it.
That’s probably why it took me 4 trips (FOUR TRIPS!) to the store in one afternoon – and back, and back, and back – to get just the right noodles.
My man. He’s particular about his noodles. And his curry chicken. Yet one more reason of the many that make me love him.
This year I’m partnering with Almond Breeze to create and share recipes using almond milk. I’ve shared several new recipes using almond milk that lean toward the savory side here and here, and these dreamy creamy popsicles that Smudge can’t get enough of.
Today we’re creating another creamy almond milk accent for our low-carb, noodle salad with curry and chicken.
The protein in this recipe is skinless chicken breast. The chicken is chopped into chunks then dusted with curry powder. The chicken is then cooked in Almond Breeze Almondmilk Coconutmilk Original that I keep in my pantry for use whenever I need it thanks to its shelf-stable package. Lighter in calories than coconut milk or cream (only 60 calories per cup), almond milk is a great alternative to create the creamy sauce (with more curry powder added in) that coats the chicken and sautéed onions.
This salad is simple in flavors, but do be prepared for some chopping or shredding of the vegetables. I recently picked up this set of three vegetable peelers (so cool that they stick together with a magnet) to create the thin strips and shreds of the fresh carrots, bell pepper and cucumbers. And it’s perfectly fine to prep the shredded veggies the day before. Add shredded lettuce, bean sprouts or other veggies to your noodle bowl if you’d like.
The next layer of freshness is in the herbs. Cilantro, basil and fresh mint leaves are all equally delicious additions on their own or in combination.
The dressing is what pulls this noodle salad all together. Nuoc cham is a rice vinegar and lime-based dressing made with fish sauce and sweetened with sugar. Don’t get all freaked out about fish sauce. A good quality, light fish sauce hardly tastes fishy at all, just avoid the brands that have a bunch of added fructose. And don’t skip the fish sauce or you’ll lose the essence of the salad.
Bún bò Huế is a popular Vietnamese soup noodle dish which originated in the old imperial capital of Huế.
Ingredients for broth:
1 kg beef shank with cartilage – sliced into 2mm thick pieces. Ask your butcher. Chop the shank slices into various shapes of about 4cm x 4cm.
2 medium sized pigs feet – fresh, cut into 1 cm pieces. Discard the feet themselves
4 tablespoons Huế shrimp paste
1 small onion – finely chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass – chopped into 5-inch pieces
1 kg rice noodles – a noodle resembling spaghetti No 5. is preferred
Red pigment powder – non-spicy for colouring
1 bunch of cilantro – stems discarded and leaves chopped
1 bunch of Italian (flat leaf) parsley – stems discarded and leaves chopped
1 medium onion – finely chopped
A large stockpot – 8-10 litres
A large mixing bowl – 2.5 litres
A small frying pan
Start by preparing the shrimp paste. In a large bowl, 2.5 litres, add shrimp paste and slowly pour in cold water while vigorously stirring the paste. Keep adding water and stirring until you’ve almost reached the rim of the bowl. Don’t let it spill over. Let the paste mixture rest in the bowl for 1.5 hours, to allow the mixture to settle.
Note: Shrimp paste is essential to this dish and cannot be considered Bún bò Huế without it. Different types of shrimp paste can be found all over Vietnam. Some are of better quality than others. Some purists believe that only Huế shrimp paste is acceptable for this dish as it is smoother and of superior quality than other pastes, which can have trace amounts of sand in them. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find outside of Vietnam, so an “inferior” paste may be substituted.
Sauté the small onion in 3 tbsp of oil until golden brown. In your stockpot, combine the cooked onion and pigs feet with 2 litres of water. Slowly bring it to the boil over medium heat. Add lemongrass and SLOWLY and CAREFULLY pour in the shrimp paste mixture making sure to only add the clear liquid not the silt that has settled at the bottom of the bowl. To the residual shrimp paste, add another litre of water and stir. Again, wait until the mixture has settled before adding it into the stockpot. Simmer the stock for 20 minutes.
Add the beef and occasionally skim the broth to ensure you get a nice clear liquid. Cook for another 20 minutes, checking the beef to be sure it’s not overcooked. Add fish sauce and sugar to taste to achieve a nice balance between salty and sweet.
While the broth is cooking, heat some oil in a pan and add the red pigment. Cook until the pigment is blended with the oil. Add to the stock. Repeat the process with the chilli powder.
Combine chopped parsley and cilantro leaves with the uncooked medium onion.
If you are using fresh noodles, simply add boiling water to heat them up. If you’re using dried noodles, soak them in boiling water until they are soft then dip in cold water to stop the cooking process. Do not over cook them or you’ll have mush. Dried noodles have already been cooked.
In a large soup bowl, place a handful of noodles, top with a handful of the parsley/cilantro/onion mixture, and ladle on generous amounts of steaming hot broth, ensuring there are several pieces of beef and pork.
You can add a squeeze of lime and chopped fresh chillies if you like your food extra spicy. It is also common to add a small dollop of shrimp paste to the soup, but those unfamiliar with the taste may not like it.
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