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Cold Rice Noodle Salad

Cold Rice Noodle Salad Recipe - This delicate salad, inspired by one from a Vietnamese takeout shop in my neighborhood, is light, simple, slurpy, and crisp, and offers a pleasing contrast of cool herbs and spicy chilies. Serve the toppings over the lettuce and the cooked noodles, then, to eat, grab bits of noodles, vegetables, and lettuce with chopsticks and dip them into the sauce bite by bite. As with pho, use a heavy hand with the fresh herbs, since they bring texture and a cloud of aromas that you don’t want to miss out on. For this dish—and for many of the cold noodle dishes in the book—it’s important that all the components be cold, but especially the dipping sauce. Preparing it in advance not only guarantees this, but also allows for easier assembly later on.

Cold Rice Noodle Salad Recipe


  • 1 serrano chili, seeded if desired, coarsely chopped
  • 1 plump garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 8 ounces dried medium-width rice noodles or rice vermicelli
  • 1 firm Kirby cucumber, peeled
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 8 ounces store-bought smoked or baked tofu
  • 4 cups shredded crisp lettuce, such as butter leaf, Boston, romaine, or iceberg
  • 1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, cored and sliced into thin strips
  • 2 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 cup thinly sliced or coarsely chopped fresh mint, basil, and/or cilantro, for garnish
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish

How to make Cold Rice Noodle Salad

  1. Combine the chili, garlic, and ginger in a mortar and pound into a rough paste using a pestle. (Alternatively, mince and mash the mixture using a chef’s knife, flattening the mixture out on a cutting board by pressing it with the side of the knife and fanning it over the board, until the mixture resembles a paste.) Combine in a small bowl with the brown sugar and the water. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the soy sauce and lime zest and juice. You should have about ¾ cup sauce. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but ideally for a few hours.
  2. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender, usually 4 to 7 minutes for the thicker noodles or 2 to 4 minutes for vermicelli; be sure to check the package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold running water in order to remove excess starch and to chill the noodles. Drain thoroughly, and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  3. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Use a mandoline to cut the cucumber and the carrot into long, thin strands. Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler to cut the vegetables into long, thin slabs, then stack the slabs on top of one another and use a sharp knife to cut into thin, noodle-like strips.
  4. Cut the tofu into about ¼-inch-thick rectangles, then stack them on top of each other and cut into matchsticks.
  5. Divide the lettuce among four bowls, then top each serving with the cold noodles. Arrange the cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, tofu, and scallions over the noodles in each bowl, then garnish with the herbs and peanuts. You can pass the dipping sauce and spoon it over the noodles at the table, or divide it among four shallow bowls and use chopsticks to dip individual bites into the sauce as you eat.