Thai Rice Noodle Salad with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

Thai Noodle Salad. insatiablemunch/Flickr
    22 min
Ratings (16)

This Thai Rice Noodle Salad is fresh and flavorful, and it's simple to make too. It features vermicelli rice noodles and lots of fresh summer vegetables--feel free to add or substitute depending on what's available at your local market. You also have the option of tossing in cooked baby shrimp or tofu.

Rice noodles are so much lighter in texture and calories than pasta noodles and yet they're just as fun and satisfying to eat. This healthy dish will prove to be a big hit at your next potluck, picnic, BBQ or dinner party. This noodle dish makes a great summertime salad, lunch, snack or side dish that's low in fat but high in flavor.

This salad tastes best when eaten fresh, as rice noodles tend to dry out when left longer than 2 days. Until ready to eat, place in a sealed covered container in the refrigerator.

What You'll Need

  • Salad Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (about 2 limes, juiced)
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 to 3 tsp. sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1 to 3 tsp. chili sauce, or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or crushed chili, to taste
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • Salad:
  • 6 to 10 oz. thin dried rice noodles (vermicelli size), available in the Asian section of your supermarket
  • 1 to 2 cups bean sprouts, or sprouts of your choice, optional
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into small slices
  • 1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
  • 4 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 can cooked shrimp, drained, or 1/2 cup deep-fried tofu, cut into small cubes, optional
  • 1 cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts or cashews, lightly chopped

How to Make It

  1. Mix dressing ingredients together in a cup, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Taste-test for a sweet-sour balance, adding more sugar if too sour for your taste. Note that the dressing will taste quite strong and salty now, but will be delicious when combined with the salad.
  2. Lightly boil rice noodles until "al dente," about 7 minutes. Drain and add bean sprouts, if using, while noodles are still hot. Gently toss (the residual heat from the noodles will lightly cook the sprouts), then rinse with cold water to keep from sticking. Set aside to drain.
  3. Place noodles and sprouts in a large salad bowl. Add the tomatoes, carrot, green onion, bell peppers, shrimp or tofu, if using, and fresh coriander. Toss to mix.
  4. Add half of the dressing plus fresh basil and nuts, tossing well to incorporate. Taste-test, adding more or all of the dressing depending on how many noodles you've made. If not salty enough, add more fish sauce or soy sauce. If not spicy enough, add more chili. If too salty, add a little more lime juice. If too sour, add more sugar.
  5. If not eating immediately, do not add the herbs or nuts and cover and allow to sit in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, or until cold. Place on a serving platter or in a salad bowl and sprinkle with fresh basil, coriander, and nuts. 

Tips

 If you're having trouble combining the noodles with the other ingredients because the noodles are too long and tangled, cut them several times with a pair of kitchen shears or clean scissors.

Thai chili sauce, called Nam Prik Pao, can be found in the Asian section of the supermarket, but you can also make your own chili sauce