This is one of those salads I’ve made for years without an official recipe. You can throw it together with just about any crunchy vegetables you have on-hand and it’s pretty forgiving: You can leave out a thing or two, or add something new, and it still tastes fantastic. It’s just the kind of salad I like to keep in the fridge in the summertime: cool and hot, spicy and sweet. And cubed tofu gives it enough protein to make it a meal. (You can substitute half a pound of cooked chicken breast or shrimp, if you prefer.)
The best part is that this salad gets better after a few days. The vinegar dressing soaks into the rice noodles, and the chili oil gets deep and hot.
1.5 ounces Maifun rice vermicelli* (about 1/4 package)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into matchstick-size slivers
1/4 English cucumber, peeled and sliced into matchstick-size slivers
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded green cabbage
7 ounces firm tofu, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
Place the rice vermicelli in a medium bowl and cover with scalding hot tap water. Cover the bowl with a towel and let soak for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables, washing and trimming thoroughly before chopping. Drain the noodles and transfer to a large bowl. Add the chopped vegetables (carrot through cabbage) and the tofu cubes and toss gently to combine.
In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Pour over noodle mixture and toss until thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to develop. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve cold.
*Check the Asian food aisle at your local grocery store, or an Asian market if you have access to one.
Tip: If you plan to serve this at a party or any other situation in which you are concerned about presentation, fold in the chopped mint at the last minute. The acidity in the dressing will wilt the mint and turn it black after a few hours in the fridge, which while not harmful doesn’t look terribly appetizing.
If you like the Vietnamese-inspired flavors of this salad, be sure to check out this recipe for fresh spring rolls with shrimp, mint, and cilantro. Another summertime favorite…