Reprinted with permission from Mark Bittman's Dinner for Everyone. As for riffing, Bittman says, "The lesson in the Vietnamese Bean Thread salad is to use cooking liquid as a way to build flavor. Whether you decide to cook squid instead of shrimp or pork instead of chicken, you’re going to end up with beautifully seasoned bean threads, before you even dress them." —Mark Bittman
2-inch piece fresh ginger, unpeeled, cut into several coins
salt, or more as needed
bone-in chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
medium or large shrimp, unpeeled
good-quality vegetable oil
fresh lime juice, or more as needed
bean thread noodles
large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into thin crescents
chopped fresh mint
chopped fresh cilantro
chopped fresh Thai basil
In This Recipe
Fill a large pot with 6 cups water and add the ginger, star anise, and 1 tablespoon salt; bring to a boil. Add the chicken and bring the water back to a boil. Adjust the heat so the liquid bubbles gently but steadily, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and then let the chicken sit until it’s no longer pink inside, another 8 to 12 minutes; it’s done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 155 to 165°F. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and cool to room temperature.
Bring the poaching liquid to a boil and add the shrimp. When it returns to a boil, remove from the heat and cover. Let the shrimp sit until uniformly pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and cool to room temperature.
Put the vegetable oil, lime juice, carrot, shallot, fish sauce, sugar, and lots of pepper into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Once again return the poaching liquid to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add the noodles and soak until transparent and just tender, at least 5 and up to 15 minutes. Drain into a strainer, reserving the broth; discard the star anise. Cut the noodles with kitchen scissors in a few places until the strands are manageable. Toss the noodles in the bowl with the dressing. (It will look overdressed but don’t worry.)
Remove the skin and bones from the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers. Peel and chop the shrimp. Add the chicken and shrimp to the noodles along with the cucumber, herbs, and as much chile as you like. Toss gently to coat and taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to 30 minutes and serve slightly chilled.
My books include the bestselling How to Cook Everything and Vegan Before 6 P.M. (VB6), where I provide all the necessary tools for making the switch to a Flexitarian diet with lists for stocking the pantry, strategies for eating away from home in a variety of situations, pointers for making cooking on a daily basis both convenient and enjoyable, and a complete 28-day eating plan showing VB6 in action.