Vietnamese noodle salad
This fresh, flavorful salad is the perfect start to a light meal on a hot summer’s day. The recipe hails from Minh Chau, a hole-in-the wall restaurant in the center of Paris that serves up the best Vietnamese food I’ve tasted outside Vietnam.
For best results, you’ll need to have some Asian ingredients on hand — rice vinegar, nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce, or you can use the Thai version, nam pla), sambal oelek (Asian hot pepper sauce) and cellophane noodles, aka bean-thread glass noodles. Asian groceries around the world stock these products, and they also may be ordered online.
The other ingredients — carrot, cilantro, peanuts and sugar — are readily available everywhere. The quantities below will serve two people.
1-3/4 ounces (50 g) dried cellophane noodles
1 medium carrot
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. water
1 or 2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup salted skinless peanuts
2 tsp. nuoc mam or nam pla (fermented fish sauce)
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp. sambal oelek (hot pepper sauce)
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Peel and grate the carrot. In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp. sugar and the water. Add the grated carrot and marinate for 15-30 minutes.
While the carrot is marinating, make the ‘omelet’. For this, use a large flat-bottomed skillet, the idea being to make your omelet as thin as possible.
Break the egg into a bowl, scramble well. Heat the oil to sizzling, using just enough to cover the bottom of your skillet. Add the egg, swirl to cover the bottom of the pan and cook over high heat until just set, about 1 minute. As soon as it’s done, slide the omelet out of the pan onto a cutting board to prevent browning.
When the omelet has cooled down a bit, cut through it three times vertically to make four strips. Pile the strips on top of each other and slice crosswise into thin strips. Set aside.
Measure the peanuts, transfer to a large board and roll over them several times with a rolling pin to crush.
Now drain the carrots through a sieve. Press down on them with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible, then pat dry thoroughly with paper towels to absorb the remaining liquid.
In a bowl, combine the noodles and carrots. Mix thoroughly using a fork or, better, your fingers. Add the nuoc mam, 1 tsp. rice vinegar and 1 tsp. sugar. Mix to blend. Chill briefly in the fridge.
Now comes the fun part — assembly. Distribute the noodle-carrot mixture on two plates. Pile the omelet strips on the noodles. Top with the fresh cilantro leaves, then the peanuts and finally a dab of sambal oelek (hot pepper sauce). Serves 2.