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“Wow, you hit this out of the park.” Those were the exact words of my not-so-famous food critic/husband when he began eating this salad recently at lunch. You shouldn’t lend too much credence to his review since he loves my cooking (and me!) and thinks almost everything I make is terrific. And he is convinced no food ever compares to what I create.
But in this instance, he was spot on. I have made various versions of this Vietnamese-inspired salad over the years and have changed and switched it around. As it stands, it is more of a salad “meal” complete with protein, rice noodles, fresh herbs, peanuts, cabbage….and this is better than any salad you will eat in most Vietnamese restaurants.
This also makes enough for 5-6 pretty substantial servings. If you are like me, you’ll want to eat this day after day for a while. Or, if you’re feeling generous, I suppose you could invite some lucky friends for lunch and pull out all the stops!
The only tough part of this is taking the time to chop vegetables. I was lazy and sliced the napa cabbage in the food processor, then used the machine to shred the carrots as well. When in Rome… This summer, while you still have lots of mint and basil and cilantro available, MAKE THIS.
Vietnamese-Inspired Salad Bowl
Salad “Topping” Ingredients
- 2 cups of leftover shredded chicken, leftover grilled fish, steak or tofu (any protein is fine)
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped roasted peanuts
- 5-6 oz rice noodles
- 1 spicy red or green chili pepper, finely diced if you like heat (OPTIONAL) I put this on the side so everyone can choose the amount of spice they desire.
- ½ Tbsp fermented chile paste (most grocery stores have this)
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 1 ½ tsp sugar (add more to taste)
- 2 Tbsp seasoned rice-wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3-4 limes)
- Zest of one lime (I use my microplane grater)
- ¼ cup Vietnamese fish sauce (I like Red Boat brand)
- ⅓ cup peanut oil or canola oil or sunflower oil
- ½ large savoy cabbage , core and inner leaves removed and sliced thin
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves or basil leaves or a combo, julienned
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, julienned
- ½ small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
- Half of an English cucumber, seeded and cut into ¼-inch by 1 inch pieces (leave the peel on)
- 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned into 1 inch x ¼ inch pieces
- 1 cup snow peas, cut into 1-inch pieces (if available)
Cook rice noodles according to package. Drain well and cool then toss with a smidge of oil. Set aside.
Whisk dressing ingredients together, taste and add more sugar if desired and pour into an empty salad dressing container. The dressing is fairly thin which always is my choice with cabbage!
Thinly slice cabbage then shred carrots. (Note: I slice the cabbage and then switch out the blade of my food processor to shred the carrots. And I always shred extra carrots for making an additional salad or to have on sandwiches.) Cut up herbs, cucumbers, peppers and snow peas. Mix all of the salad stuff together.
To serve: Get a large shallow bowl for each serving. Layer the cooked rice noodles, then salad, then top with shredded chicken or other protein. Sprinkle with peanuts and diced spicy pepper if desired . Drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of dressing and mix, then add more dressing if needed. Enjoy with some summer fruit!
I store the salad, the rice noodles, the peanuts, spicy diced pepper, and the protein in individual containers so I can use them and they stay fresh for up to five days.