This light and refreshing vermicelli noodle salad gets its inspiration from one of my favorite dishes of all time, Vietnamese bun salads, with fresh slivered veggies in a tangy Vietnamese rice vinegar dressing, making it a simple side dish to serve with grilled meats and chicken.
The first time I made a version of this salad was when my husband and I were newlyweds. One of our wedding gifts was a version of this countertop roaster/griller contraption. The first dish we made with the roaster was from the recipe book that came along with it, a version of Asian roasted chicken in a peanut sauce that was served with a simple vermicelli noodle salad very similar to this one I’m sharing today. Or at least that’s what I remember.
That chicken dish was pretty much the only thing we ever made in the roaster. It became yet another gadget to add to our assortment of kitchen appliances that begs one to question, “But do I really need it?” We admitted it just didn’t justify the room it took up in our cramped kitchen so we eventually parted ways.
But this noodle salad…it’s here to stay.
Noodle pasta salads that don’t require any cooking are a bit of an anomaly. Wait. What? You can make noodles and skip the rolling boil in a large stockpot or cooking in a brothy soup? Noodles that are soft, pliable, and twirlable but haven’t spent any time in a bubbling vat of water? But how?
It’s all in the noodle. Specifically, Asian vermicelli noodles.
What’s the Difference Between Rice Noodles and Mung Bean Noodles?
Vermicelli noodles are thin and flexible when cooked and are a popular filling in Asian spring rolls. I most often encounter two styles of vermicelli noodles when I’m grocery shopping, so what’s the difference?
Rice vermicelli noodles are just a tad firmer when cooked, whiter in color and more opaque. Cellophane vermicelli noodles, which look very similar in the package to the rice noodle variety, are also called bean threads or glass noodles and are made from mung bean starch. When cooked, they have a more slippery, gelatinous feel, and look more translucent.
Despite their difference, both kinds of noodles can be used in this dish. I prefer the rice vermicelli noodles, but when I pick up the wrong package at the store, in the end I’m just as happy with either. One of their most attractive attributes to both of these styles of noodles is they soften quickly in boiling water in just a few minutes, so they can be prepared quickly. I use my teapot to prepare the boiling water and simply pour it over the noodles that are then ready in just a few minutes.
The dressing for the softened noodles and shredded veggies is a tangy sweet and sour Vietnamese sauce called nuoc cham. It’s made with fish sauce and seasoned rice vinegar. In choosing fish sauce, always choose a high quality fish sauce that hasn’t been left opened in your cupboard for too long (the fishy flavor will become more pronounced.) This is my favorite quality fish sauce.
I use seasoned rice vinegar instead of regular rice vinegar because it already has a little sugar in it and I like it best for salad dressings. However, if you prefer to have more control over the amount of sugar in the dressing, use regular rice vinegar and add more or less sugar I’ve listed in the recipe to your taste.
Also, beware of confusing rice vinegar with rice WINE vinegar. This is how they’re different, producing very different tastes.
I use shredded carrot, cucumber, fresh bean sprouts and green onion in this recipe but you could certainly switch up your ingredient list to include:
- shredded lettuce
- shredded red or green cabbage
- diced red onion
- slivered red, oranges, or yellow bell pepper
- shelled edamame
- Thai basil, globe basil, or mint
Serve this salad with grilled meat, seafood, or chicken to make a complete meal or keep it vegetarian for a healthy and light lunch or supper.
These noodles are a keeper.
Fresh and Easy Vietnamese Noodle Salad
- 12 ounces thin Asian vermicelli noodles such as rice stick or mung bean
- 2 carrots , shredded
- 2 cucumbers , seeded and shredded
- 4 green onions , chopped
- 1 ½ cups fresh bean sprouts
- ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
- ½ cup fish sauce
- ½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cloves garlic , pressed or minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Soften the vermicelli noodles in a large bowl by covering with boiling water and soaking for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Rinse under cold water, drain, and add to a large bowl. Add the shredded carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts and chopped cilantro to the noodles.
- In a glass jar fitted with a lid or a bowl, mix together the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and crushed red pepper. Pour ¾ of the dressing over the noodles and toss to coat. Add more dressing if desired. Sprinkle with more cilantro and green onion and a squeeze of lime if desired. Salad can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight, however if making ahead, add the cilantro just before serving.
More Vietnamese Recipes to Love
Vietnamese Iced Coffee Ice Cream from Love and Olive Oil
Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad from Wanderlust Kitchen
Vegetarian Pho Recipe from Cookie and Kate
My Mom’s Vietnamese Spring Rolls 3 Ways from The Little Kitchen
Bahn Mi Tacos on the Grill from Cook the Story
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