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Today: Sweet, salty, crunchy, noodley. It's what's for dinner.
Filling, but not heavy. Full of vegetables, but not too virtuous. A little spicy. A lot of noodles. A handful of crunchy, salty peanuts. Does double-duty by absorbing leftovers. Is it the perfect meal? Is it dinnertime yet?
This Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad, a version of bun, comes together in under half an hour, and we bet you have most of the ingredients—even the fresh ones—on hand already. Here's what you'll need to make it tonight:
(Organized by area of the market)
Serves 2 to 3
1 head napa cabbage
1 medium carrot
1 bunch fresh basil, cilantro, or mint (or a combination of them)
1 fresh Thai ("bird's eye") chile
8 ounces cooked meat or shrimp
3 tablespoons fish sauce
8 ounces thin rice noodles
1/2 cup salted peanuts
We are assuming you already have light brown sugar and a clove of garlic. If not, add those to your list, too!
With 45 minutes before dinner, juice your limes. Whisk 3 tablespoons of it with the brown sugar, sliced chile, minced garlic, and fish sauce to make the dressing for the noodles in a small bowl. Use the rest of the lime juice to make yourself a cocktail (like a Hothouse Cooler). Take a sip. Put a pot of water on to boil and assess your produce.
Slice up 3 to 4 leaves of the cabbage, the carrot, and half the cucumber. Chop the herbs and peanuts, tear the meat into bite-sized pieces, and set everything aside.
Only 10 minutes to go! Boil the rice noodles, drain them, and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Dry them well before serving them in generous bowls with the vegetables, meat, herbs, and peanuts arranged on top. Leave the dressing on the side so your fellow diners can season as they wish—and hope there will be leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.
Photo by James Ransom