Rice Noodle and Vegetable Salad with Peanut Dressing

Original image from cookbook with
Eggs which I left out to make it
Vegan friendly.
I love salads of all kinds. With the summer season starting and our first BBQ invitation here, it was time to expand my already large repertoire. The host of this party had to avoid Gluten and Dairy, so  I wanted to find something new and exciting she could eat that would also appeal to everyone.There were 2 or 3 great choices I looked at, but the recipe I settled on was out of a Company's Coming mini-cookbook from the supermarket checkout called Salads to Go. This is one of the best salad cookbooks I have found in a long time because the focus is on recipes that travel well. Most would be great to take to work for lunch or on a picnic and they store well for a few days in the fridge. 

The original recipe - called Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad - was altered slightly to include double the noodles from 4-1/2 oz to 8 oz and no hard boiled eggs. I just felt there weren't enough noodles in the original recipe as they got lost amongst the vegetables. I love noodles, so a no-brainer for me. The change also reduces the amount of dressing per serving creating a lighter taste and the calories per serving goes down.  6 ounces would be a great option if you want to find a happy medium. I removed the 6 hard-boiled eggs to make it Vegan-friendly. They weren't missed. They do boost the protein to make this more of a full meal, so just another option.

2 weeks later I decided to make this recipe again, but with 2 more changes - 1 cup thinly sliced red onion was changed to 1 bunch of green onions and 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint was changed to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Green onions have a milder flavour that I personally feel blends better with the rest of the ingredients. If you prefer the bite of red onion, the salad should probably sit a bit to allow the dressing to mellow them.  Mint might be more traditional in this type of cooking, but it it had the tendency to stand out from the other flavours. It was an interesting note which I might use again in combination with the stronger red onion, but overall I felt the cilantro blended with the rest of the ingredients a bit better and it's citrus-y flavour paired well with the lime juice.

I personally dislike a salad that is hard to eat, so always take a moment to break the rice noodles into shorter lengths - 2 to 3 inches.  It is just so much easier to eat and you don't end up after twirling the noodles around your fork, with the vegetables left behind to be eaten separately. BUT, if you love eating LONG noodles, then skip this step. The recipe makes a really large salad, so when it came time to mix in the dressing I ended up tossing the spoon aside, washing my hands thoroughly and diving in. It's bright, colourful and unless someone has nut allergies, everyone can eat it.  But best of all, the leftovers the next day make for a great lunch. Enjoy!

Rice Noodles
Rice and Vegetable Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

8 oz.       Small Rice Stick Noodles (I use 1/4" and break into approx. 3" pieces)
1             Small English Cucumber, skin on (see note)
1             Medium Red Pepper, Cut once crosswise and then julienne lengthwise
2             Medium Carrots, cut crosswise into 2" pieces and then julienne
1-1/2 C   Snow Peas, trimmed and julienned (If very large I would also half crosswise)
1             Bunch Green onions, whites and part of green - sliced
2/3 C      Salted peanuts coarsely chopped
1/2 C      Cilantro, finely chopped

Dressing -
Fish Sauce
1/2 C      Smooth Peanut Butter
1/4 C      Vegetable Oil (Peanut, Grapeseed, Canola, Etc.)
1/4 C      Warm Water
2 T         sweet Chili Sauce
2 tsp       Brown Sugar
1 tsp       Fish Sauce
1             Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp    Finely grated ginger root
Juice from 1 Lime

Other -
1 T         Sesame Seeds, lightly toasted in pan or oven

(Note - I find about 3/4 of a long, slender english cucumber or 1/2 if it is really thick and large about right, but add to your personal taste. Cut off the ends, slice lengthwise into quarters and then crosswise into bite size pieces.)

Cook Rice Stick Noodles according to package directions OR put in bowl and cover with boiling water until tender but firm (depending on thickness about 10 minutes).  If salt is not an issue, you can add some salt to the water.  Drain, rinse with cold water to stop cooking and drain again.  Add noodles and next 7 ingredients to large salad bowl. Mix all dressing ingredients and pour over salad. A Magic Bullet mini-mixer is great for this to get a smooth consistency if you have one. If not just be sure to mince finely and mix very well.

Chill for at least an hour, preferably a bit longer. I think it tastes the best the next day, but you do get some liquid in the bottom. If not in the serving bowl yet, transfer to a well-chilled salad bowl or platter. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve. Cross your fingers that there will be some leftovers to enjoy.