Southeast Asian rice noodle salad
(all ingredients available at Dong Thai
, 459 Notre Dame Avenue)
The secret to Southeast Asian cooking is hitting the balance of hot, sweet, salty and sour. In this dish, that combo is represented in the 1:1:2:4 sauce (which is short for 1 part fish sauce, 1 part sugar, 2 parts rice wine vinegar and 4 parts water).
one package rice vermicelli noodles
one green papaya
one large carrot (or two smaller carrots)
one rib of celery
one bunch of cilantro
one bunch of Thai basil
one bunch of Thai mint
1/2 cup of bean sprouts
For the traditional 1:1:2:4 dressing
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 clove grated garlic
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 bird's eye chilies finely diced (don't use to many of the seeds though, as that will make it too spicy)
Dilute the sugar in the water then add the fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic, ginger and chilies and mix well. If dressing seems a bit watery, then add a bit more fish sauce to balance it out. You want a harmonious mix of sour, spicy and sweet, with the tangy fish sauce evident in the dressing.
Soak the rice noodles in hot (near boiling) water to soften for about 2 minutes, then drain and rinse under cool water.
Julienne the green papaya, carrots, cucumber and celery, then toss with noodles, sprouts and dressing (note: you will only need to use about half the dressing, the rest can stay in the fridge for at least a week). Top with the fresh cilantro, mint and Thai basil to give it a nice punch of colour (a slice of lime also looks quite jazzy on the side). You can also add any sort of protein from prawns (make sure they are of the sustainable variety) to slices of pork on top of the salad.
For the dish I shared on the Weekend Morning show, I topped my salad with buttermilk fried chicken -- the greasiness of the chicken held up well to the sweet, salty, spicy and sour flavours of the salad -- to make for a well balanced plate.