Monday, August 10, 2015

Andrea Chesman: Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp

Too hot to cook? No problem. Author Andrea Chesman shares a summer staple.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp
Photo courtesy of the author
Sometimes when it’s too hot to cook, it’s too hot to eat. That’s when my brother makes an ice cream sundae and calls it dinner. He says you’ve got your dairy (protein), your eggs (protein), and nuts (protein and fiber). So why not?

There are probably fifty reasons why ice cream for dinner is not a good idea, but the most convincing reason is a chilled, herb-and-crunchy-veggie-packed Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp. You’ve got your protein, your veggies, and you don’t have to break a sweat to make it (or to work off the calories).

The recipe for this salad is a combination of several that appeared in Mom’s Best One-Dish Suppers, which came out in 2005. Ever since then, this salad has been a summertime staple in my house. Part of what makes this dish ideal for summer is that there’s not much cooking involved. Rice vermicelli noodles and shrimp are cooked quickly in water that should be as salty as the sea (it makes a big difference in flavor), then dressed lightly with a mixture of fish sauce, fresh lime juice, sugar, and garlic. Noodles and shrimp chill in the refrigerator before being tossed with salad greens, crunchy veggies, and chopped herbs (woodchucks ate my basil, so it’s just parsley and mint here). As a final touch, I garnish with chopped peanuts for extra crunch.

A frosty beer or an off-dry German Riesling does not go amiss here. After a dinner like this, I feel great and happy to have put my garden-fresh herbs and veggies to such good use. My brother, on the other hand, needs to go on a 5K run to work off the sugar rush.

Just a note: Though it’s not a requirement, your salad will look better if you take care with the knife work. A kinpira peeler is an inexpensive little gadget that makes lovely juliennes for carrots and daikon radishes. A mandoline will slice cukes paper-thin.
Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp
Photo courtesy of the author

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp

Serves 4

7-ounce package rice vermicelli noodles
1 pound fresh or frozen shrimp
9 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 cups crunchy vegetables (cucumbers, blanched green beans or broccoli, snow peas or sugar snap peas, bell pepper), sliced
4 cups torn salad greens (lettuce, arugula, baby kale, pea shoots)
1 cup fresh mixed herbs (cilantro, basil, mint, parsley), chopped
½ cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

  1. Bring two pots of salted water to a boil (be generous with the salt).  To one pot, add the rice noodles and remove from the heat. Let sit until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Then drain. To the second pot, add the shrimp and boil until pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Drain well. Then peel the shrimp.
  2. To make the dressing, combine fish sauce and sugar in a microwave-safe glass jar or measuring cup.  Microwave briefly, 30 to 60 seconds. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Then stir in the lime juice and garlic. Let cool until no longer hot to the touch.  
  3. In a large bowl, combine the rice noodles, shrimp, crunchy vegetables, and dressing in a large bowl and toss to mix well. If you are the make-ahead type, this part of the salad can be assembled early in the day and placed in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  4. In another bowl, combine the salad greens and herbs. This can also be done ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator until serving. 
  5. To serve, spread out the greens and herbs on a serving platter. Top with the shrimp and noodle mixture and garnish with chopped peanuts. 

Andrea Chesman is the author of many cookbooks, including The Pickled PantryRecipes from the Root CellarServing Up the HarvestMom’s Best Crowd-Pleasers, and The Vegetarian Grill, which was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Book Award and won a National Barbecue Association Award of Excellence. She is a coauthor of 250 Treasured Country Desserts and The Classic Zucchini Cookbook, and her articles have appeared in the New York TimesCooking LightFood & WineVegetarian TimesOrganic GardeningFine Cooking, and other publications. Her new book, The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How, is available for pre-order. Visit Andrea’s website.

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