Vietnamese Noodle (Bun) Salad recipe

[image-1]Bun (often translated as "rice stick" on labels) are simply vermicelli made with rice flour, often sold in organized nests wrapped in plastic. Cooking these is utterly simple -- a quick soak off the stove in boiling water is all you need.


For the salad, versatility is the key. I piled noodles in the center of a big bowl and mounded julienned slices of every veggie I had in the fridge -- red pepper, jalapeno, carrot, cucumber, lettuce and more. Add a chiffonade of fresh herbs, some crushed peanuts, and a few other garnishes, and you have an incredibly beautiful salad. To make it taste as good as it looks, you need nuoc cham.


Traditionally a ubiquitous dipping sauce, nuoc cham's bright and intense flavor works great as a dressing. Serve it on the side and let people pour their own -- some folks don't appreciate the pungent flavor of fish sauce.


And, of course, you need the grill for whatever meat you want to throw on top. I used marinated shrimp and  chicken thighs. Use brown sugar and some fish sauce in the marinade to give you good caramelization and complement the flavors in the dressing.


Vietnamese Bun Salad


1 package bun (aka rice sticks or rice vermicelli)


1 red pepper, julienned


2 cucumbers, seeded and cut into matchsticks


3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks


1 package fresh bean sprouts


scallions, diced


basil, fresh


mint, fresh


several limes, cut into wedges


handful of shredded lettuce


4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs


1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined


marinade (recipe below)


nuoc cham (recipe below)


1. A few hours before you plan to serve, combine chicken and marinade in a plastic bag, toss to combine, and refrigerate. Cut vegetables and set aside. Prepare nuoc cham. Start soaking wooden skewers in water.


2. About an hour and a half before you plan to serve, add shrimp to bag with chicken.


3. Thirty minutes before you plan to serve, light grill and prepare for medium heat. Remove chicken and shrimp from marinade. Skewer shrimp. Grill chicken for approximately 15 minutes, or until cooked through and nicely caramelized. Remove chicken and grill shrimp for a scant couple of minutes per side, until just firm.


4. While grilling, boil water and pour over noodles to cover in a large bowl. Cover bowl and let steep for five minutes, or until the noodles are tender. Drain water and place noodles in serving dish. Bunch the garnishes around the noodles.


5. Roughly chop chicken and place atop noodles in serving dish. Arrange shrimp skewers around noodles. Serve with nuoc cham on the side.


Nuoc Cham


juice of two limes


2 tablespoons brown sugar


4 tablespoons fish sauce


8 cloves garlic, minced


chile-garlic paste to taste (or use finely sliced hot chiles of your choice)


Whisk together all ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.


Marinade


You can use just about any combination of salty, sweet and acidic ingredients for this, but I used a combination of soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar. Be careful, though, since soy sauce and fish sauce are both potently salty. Since the meat will only be in the marinade for a relatively brief time, it shouldn't matter too much, however.

Memorial Day may have signaled the beginning of grilling season for our northern friends, but down here it's almost the opposite. As we head into the humid months of summer, big slabs of barbecued meat seem a tad heavy in the scorching Florida weather.

But that doesn't mean we need to shun the grill. For a recent pool party get-together, I wanted an easy, mid-day dish that I could cook on the patio, but wouldn't weigh my guests down. Refreshing, light and simple.

Vietnamese bun salad did the trick.

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