Lots of snow remains in our Montana valley. Even though the official start of spring remains a month away, eating Thai Rice Noodle Salad today reminded me that spring will soon be here. Thai food with its light, clean and complex flavors, abundance of colorful vegetables and fresh herbs provides quite the contrast to winter’s long cooking tubers and roots.
Learning to cook Thai
I so enjoy these flavors that two weeks ago I took a Thai Cooking Class here in Bozeman. Linda Huang (originally from Shanghai) of The Hummingbirds Kitchen taught the class. Ever since, I’ve been cooking with Thai flavors in soup, salad and curry. A bowl of Thai Noodle Salad makes a complete meal in our house. Totally satisfying while refreshingly light.
Today marks my fourth time in two weeks for making this Thai Rice Noodle Salad. Each time tweaking the technique a bit and adding or subtracting vegetables and herbs. But never changing the dressing ingredients except to increase the amount of it. Linda’s dressing perfectly balances fresh lime juice with fish sauce, toasted sesame oil and Pad Thai Sauce.
Thai thin rice noodles, vermicelli style
Made from just rice and water, gluten-free rice noodles quickly rehydrate and easily absorb flavors. They also maintain their shape well resulting in great leftovers. If you’ve ever made Chinese Chicken Salad then you’ll know these noodles by their Chinese name maifun. For that salad, the noodles are added to hot oil. Your wok becomes like an erupting volcano. In seconds the noodles explode and increase many times over in size. So much fun.
As an aside, there’s another kind of Asian vermicelli-style noodles. These go by names such as cellophane noodles, glass noodles or crystal noodles. Often made from mung beans and water these noodles (rather obvious from their names) cook up clear like glass. Rice noodles on the other hand become white when cooked.
Update—a very versatile recipe
Only one day later and I craved this salad once again. Not having the same vegetables on hand, substitutions were necessary.
- Only a lemon in the fridge so its juice replaced the fresh lime juice.
- No Serrano chile so a rounded ½ teaspoon sambal olek became a part of the dressing.
- No peppers? No problem. Thinly sliced carrots, sliced crimini mushrooms and the julienned leftover half of a sweet potato joined an extra portion of haricots verts in the sauté pan.
Dear Paul, my official taster, said he preferred this version of the Thai Rice Noodle Salad—though truly every version we’ve had has been terrific.
To learn more about the art and beauty and flavors of Thai Cuisine take a look at this Wikipedia article.
Thai Rice Noodle Salad
Inspired by and adapted from a recipe from Linda Huang of The Hummingbird’s Kitchen.
For this vegetarian salad, I like to lightly sauté the shallots or red onion, red pepper and slender haricots verts or thin green beans. I let them cool slightly before tossing them with the dressed noodles, herbs and tomatoes.
Feel free to substitute or use additional fresh, blanched or lightly sautéed vegetables in this most versatile salad: i.e. carrots, sweet potatoes, shiitake or crimini mushrooms, broccoli, summer squash, cucumbers, radishes, etc. Linda also adds cooked ground turkey to her salad.
Makes 4 servings as an entrée salad, 8 servings or more as part of a larger meal
Active Time: 40 minutes Printer-Friendly Recipe
Total Time: 40 minutes
Half a box Thai Kitchen Thin (Vermicelli) Rice Noodles
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced pole-to-pole
or One-quarter red onion, thinly sliced pole-to-pole
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups haricot verts or thin green beans, trimmed and halved
½ Serrano Chile, seeded and thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro (including finer stems)
½ cup Thai basil, torn into pieces
½ cup green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
¼ cup fresh mint, thinly sliced
¼ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
4-5 cups romaine lettuce, thinly sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon Thai Kitchen Fish Sauce
3½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons Thai Kitchen Pad Thai Sauce
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
- Break or cut the noodles in half. Place them into a pot of boiling water. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the noodles sit for 4-5 minutes until soft yet firm. Drain the noodles then place them in a bowl of cold water to cool.
- Drain the noodles very well so as not to dilute the dressing. Transfer the drained noodles into a large bowl. Use chopsticks or your hands to toss the noodles with the dressing. Set aside while you sauté the vegetables.
- Heat the coconut oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cover the pan, and lightly cook the shallot or red onion, red pepper and haricots verts for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Transfer the vegetables onto a plate to cool slightly. (Note: other vegetables may take longer to soften.)
- Use your hands to toss the noodles with the tomatoes, fresh herbs and green onions.
- When the sautéed vegetables have cooled a bit, use your hands to toss them with the noodles.
- Serve the Thai Rice Noodle Salad on a bed of sliced romaine if you are using it. Garnish the salad with roasted peanuts.
Note: I do not work for Thai Kitchen. I just like their products and purchased them myself.