If you had to pick a favorite cuisine, what would you choose? Is it an easy decision for you? It’s not for me, not at all. I love the hot curry pastes, cilantro and lime flavors of Thai; the earthy olives and tangy feta of Greek; the rich, buttery avocados and hot chiles of Mexican. But it is the cuisine of Vietnam that I turn to when I want fresh, peppery, tart flavors. And the book that I usually turn to is, Quick & Easy Vietnamese: 75 Everyday Recipes.
Since I had some leftover roast chicken, I was looking for something to use it up, and Big, Cool Noodle Bowl with Roast Chicken, Cucumbers, and Fresh Mint, sounded perfect. And, perfect it was. I can’t begin to say how good this was. It was fresh, light, sweet, sour, hot and cool. What I really liked was that once you created the parts, you could assemble it however you felt. You could have more carrots, less cilantro, light on the cucumbers, heavy on the dipping sauce. The recipe states that the bean sprouts are optional (and they really are, because I forgot them until the very end, and it made no difference), and I would also have to say that the chicken is optional. It really didn’t even need it!
Big, Cool Noodle bowl with Roast chicken, Cucumbers, and Fresh Mint
1/2 pound thin dried rice noodles or angel hair pasta
2 cups shredded lettuce or spring mix
3 cups shredded roast chicken, or 1/2 pound grilled shrimp, or 1/2 recipe of Lemongrass Beef
2 cups peeled and sliced cucumber
1 cup small sprigs of fresh mint and fresh cilantro combined
2 cups mung bean sprout (optional)
1 cup shredded pickled carrots (or regular carrots), optional
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
3/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
double recipe of Everyday Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)
Cook noodles as describe on package. Drain and rinse with cool water and drain again.
Set out 4 big noodle bowls. Divide the ingredients amongst the four bowls, starting with the lettuce, then 1 1/2 cups of noodles per bowl. Put the roast chicken on one side, then the cucumbers, herbs, and any of the optional ingredients that you are using. Sprinkle with the green onions and the peanuts, pour over 1/4 cup of the dipping sauce (or however much you like) over each portion. Serve.
Everyday Dipping Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce, or finely chopped fresh hot red chillies, or 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Combine the garlic, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce in the bowl of a mortar and mash to form a paste. Scrape the paste into a small bowl and combine with the liquid ingredients. Stir to combine. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator.