Back to School

How to Make Any Kind of Noodle Salad

August 12, 2014

As a defiant response to Sad Desk Lunches, the Food52 team works to keep our midday meals both interesting and pretty. Each week, we'll be sharing our happiest desk lunches -- and we want to see yours, too.

Today: For lunch this week, use your noodle. 

Molly Wizenberg's Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

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Like cheese toast and peanut butter, noodles remind us of all that is right in the world. They beg to be eaten with chopsticks, to be slurped strand by strand -- and most of all, to save you from your third kale salad this week. Since you already abandoned lettuce, let’s take things a step further and forgo our leafy greens entirely. Your next salad is a bowl of noodles.  

We’ll be honest -- we were a little nervous to leave our greens behind. “Is a salad still a salad,” we wondered, “if no one tosses it with arugula?” Luckily, noodle salad is everything you could ask for in a weekday lunch: It’s bold and hearty; it’ll fill you up like lettuce never could. And even if you toss it the night before, it will stand up to dressings that would have made a lesser salad wilt. 

More: Noodles also make a mean stir-fry -- whip up a batch tonight and pack the leftovers for lunch.

Vegan Soba Noodle Salad by Gena Hamshaw

First things first: choose your noodle adventure -- be it soba, rice, or udon -- and then take a hard look at last night’s leftovers. Pickled vegetables, roast chicken, and crispy tofu are all fair game, and if you find green onions or mint languishing in the crisper drawer, throw those in, too.

The crowning glory is your dressing. For soba, you can’t go wrong with a creamy peanut sauce, but as for rice noodles? You’re going to need nuoc cham. I grew up on my mother’s variation, made with the holy trinity of Vietnamese salad dressings: water, lime juice, and fish sauce, in a rough 3:1:1 ratio. Experiment with rice vinegar, with garlic and Thai chilies -- once you find your sweet spot, noodle salad will never fail you.

More: Your dressing is only as good as its fish sauce. Pick up a bottle of the best. 

Chopsticks ready? Here are some of our favorite noodle salads to inspire your own.  

How do you use your noodle for lunch? Tell us in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Lisa is a noodle fiend and a chocolate hoarder. She probably wants to make you cookies.