Who remembers Mean Girls? Not your personal brush with bullying, but the most excellent 2004 film starring Lindsay Lohan before she went cray-cray. You know the line, ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’? Well on Wednesdays I eat Vietnamese noodle salad from a place called Eat Fuh, becuase a) it’s totally delicious, b) there’s a stall at the markets I go to, c) when I like a dish I tend to order it obsessively at every possible opportunity, and d) it really is totally delicious. So Wednesday is markets day and noodle salad day, a highlight of my culinary week: sesame chicken with vermicelli noodles, veggies, herbs and lots of chilli… Yum.
But then the other week, disaster struck: THEY RAN OUT OF NOODLE SALADS. They fricking ran out. I was devastated. I had to go with something else from the menu, which was fine and good and all, but kind of like when the characters of your favourite teen TV show leave high school and go to college – just not the same.
So not only did I learn an important lesson about getting in early, but it also made me think I should buy some vermicelli and have a play. I should start by saying this recipe is not an attempt to recreate my markets dish – I’ll leave that goodness to the professionals. I like to think of it as the love child of a Thai larb (a salad made from minced chicken), a Vietnamese salad and a Korean bibimbap. A pan-Asian folly, if you will. Sure you could just chuck everything in one big bowl and serve it like that, but I think it’s more fun to be able to mix it up in your own bowl, having a bit of this and that.
Unlike regular noodles, vermicelli only need to be steeped in hot/boiling water to cook through. Stop them clumping together by rinsing them as soon as they’re cooked – and drain them well in a colander so you don’t end up with a big wet mess down the bottom of your bowl. It’s also best to cook them soon before serving (the running water will cool them down).
As well as garnishing with the chilli and coriander, you could throw in a couple of torn mint leaves, or try some crushed peanuts for added crunch. Vegetarians, I reckon you could use scrambled tofu in lieu of chicken mince and get a great effect.
The chicken and noodles can both be served lukewarm, which means everything can easily be prepared in advance (although I recommend doing the noodles last, as above). Save some time by investing in a mandolin – not only does everything LOOK beautiful when you use one to chop things, you really can whip through everything in a fraction of the time.
- 500g minced chicken
- 250g vermicelli noodles (cooked according to packet instructions – see note above)
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 medium carrot, grated
- 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
- 1/2 cup of julienned snow peas
- 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp soy
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- One lime, quartered, for garnish
- 1/2 cup coriander leaves
- 1 long red chilli, deseeded and diced
- Heat a non stick pan to medium. Add the chicken mince, kaffir lime and garlic, and cook through, stirring often so chicken doesn’t brown.
- Take the chicken off the heat, add the soy and fish sauce, combine, and set aside.
- Add the rice wine vinegar to the grated carrot, combine, and set aside.
- Add the sesame oil to the bean shoots, combine, and set aside.
- Add the lime juice to the cabbage, combine, and set aside.
- Assemble each salad in individual bowls – put noodles on the bottom, then add the carrot, bean shoots, snow peas and cabbage separately around the bowl. Put chicken on the top, then garnish with coriander, fresh chilli and a lime wedge.