Since we live in Miami (a/k/a The Land Without Winter) we are always on the lookout for recipes that are suited to a warm climate. Thai food is an excellent source of ideas for these meals. Finding a recipe in the Wall Street Journal — yes, they do print recipes — for a spicy noodle salad inspired me a few months ago to venture into Thai cuisine. I’ve made this dish several times now and have been very pleased with the results each time. It’s healthy, with tons of flavor, and as a bonus involves relatively few dishes to wash!
I use rice noodles and Thai fish sauce, but otherwise the ingredients are generally items we have around the house so it’s easy to throw this together. I have also used chicken for each of my versions, but this would probably be just as delicious as a vegetarian version. This is a dish that is packed with fresh ingredients and perfect for warm days. Here’s what I do.
Start with poaching the chicken. No need to rush – let it simmer and then cool off once cooked. Once cooled, slice the chicken to toss with the rest of the ingredients.
Once the chicken is cooked, you can use the hot burner to boil water to cook the rice noodles. I use the broad ones that look like linguine, and perhaps not coincidentally they cook just like linguine.
In the meantime, start slicing the fresh ingredients in a very large bowl – everything will be assembled in here. Cherry tomatoes are best, but roma also work in a pinch. A mandolin makes fast work of the cucumber and shallots.
Probably the most important component for a burst of flavor is fresh herbs. The combination of mint, basil and cilantro adds incredible fragrance and freshness to the salad. Fortunately we grow two out of the three on our balcony, so all I need to remember to pick up at the store is the mint! I chop everything together and add it to the growing mountain of tastiness in the big bowl.
An equally important component is the sauce that will tie everything together. This is a sweet / sour / spicy sauce with just a few ingredients that guarantees a party in the mouth.
The ingredients are lime juice (1-2 limes), hot peppers (I use 1 fresh jalapeno and a few dried arbols), fish sauce (or just use salt if you don’t want anchovies in the dish), and sugar. A few moments of chopping and grinding in the mini food processor results in a very watery and spicy sauce. Don’t be alarmed! The rice noodles will soak up plenty of sauce, and the heat from the chilis will be balanced by the blander ingredients like the chicken and noodles. Be sure to make plenty of sauce to coat all the other components.
Once the rice noodles are cooked, drain them and rinse thoroughly with cold water to get them to room temperature.
Finally, toss everything — vegetables, herbs, sliced chicken, noodles and sauce — together in the giant bowl and get ready to chow down on a simple, healthy and delicious meal! This dish is great served at room temperature or cold.
Here’s a link to the original recipe that inspired my version, but it’s behind the paywall so a subscription is needed to see the whole page.