Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Make Your Own Takeout: Asian Noodle Salad

One of my cooking goals for years was to learn how to cook Chinese food, but I never had much success with the recipes I tried.  I had trouble finding the right ingredients and the flavors just never seemed to be quite right.  In the past year or so, this goal has broadened to that of learning to cook Asian food, in general.  Specifically the kinds of dishes I like to eat when I grab takeout at work or when Steven & I go out for dinner at our favorite, local Chinese place.  Today, my local grocery store carries a lot better variety of Asian ingredients and I'm finding I'm much more successful in achieving the results I'm looking for so now I'm truly on a mission to Make My Own Takeout.

One takeout dish I like to get from my office's favorite Pho place is a rice noodle bowl that is topped with skewers of lemongrass pork or shrimp or both.  They serve this dish with a dressing that is really light and tasty and is sesame oil-based.  It's very much like having Pho in a salad form and it was my inspiration for this Asian Noodle Salad.

I decided to make and Asian lunch for my Gaming Group this weekend and the weather was unseasonably warm - seriously, we had 80 degree weather in April.  These kinds of temperatures aren't usually enjoyed until July or August around here, so this was a real treat, but it also called for a change in menu for Saturday's lunch.  I had planned on making Chinese BBQ Pork, Gyoza and an Asian Noodle Stir Fry, also based on dish I enjoy from the same Pho place I just mentioned.  With the warm weather though, I really felt a cool salad dish would be more appropriate so I shifted my plan to make Asian Noodle Salad instead and this is how it went...

I boiled some vermicelli noodles in salted water.

While the noodles were cooking, I got started on the dressing which I made with lime juice, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, ginger, garlic, pepper and a bit of sugar...

My trusty microplane was my go to tool for just about everything I made for this meal.  I used it to zest the lime as well as mincing the garlic and ginger - I did this all right into a mason jar.  Then I squeezed the juice of the lime right into the mason jar as well and topped it with an equal amount of olive oil (I just do this by sight, it's ok if it's a tiny bit more or less) and topped that with about 1 tsp of sesame oil.  Finally, I added about a teaspoon of sugar - you can add more if you like it more sweet, but I wanted that bright, tartness of the lime to really shine through.  I placed the lid on the jar and then put the jar in the fridge to chill while I moved on with the rest of the salad.

Once the noodles were done (it only took about 5 minutes), I drained them and rinsed them in cold water to stop the cooking process and to fully cool the noodles so they wouldn't wilt the fresh ingredients...

...  I put the drained, cooled noodles in a large bowl and topped them with shredded Napa Cabbage (my personal favorite) and carrots that I julienned with a julienne peeler...

... and I topped that with mung beans and scallions...

... then I tossed the whole thing together and mixed it well.  I added a tiny drizzle of olive oil to help separate the noodles.  I refrigerated the whole thing at this point and dressed it right before serving.

It was a really delicious salad and everyone seemed to like it.  It was bright, light and refreshing and struck just the right balance for the warm dishes and weather.  I would love to add toasted almonds or peanuts to this for an added crunch and some protein and have it as a meal this summer when the weather is hot.

Give this salad and try and let me know what you do to make it your own, I'd love to hear your variations!

Asian Noodle Salad
Serves 8

8 oz Vermicelli Noodles
2 Cups Shredded Cabbage
1 Cup Shredded Carrots
1 Cup Mung Beans
2 Scallions, chopped


Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime, approx. 2 TBLS
2 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp Sesame Oil
1 Tsp Sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
Black Pepper to taste

For the salad: Cook Vermicelli Noodles in boiling water until just al-dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Place well-drained noodles in a large bowl. Add remaining salad ingredients and toss thoroughly.

Place all dressing ingredients in a mason jar.  Cover tightly and shake well.  Taste and make any adjustments you like.  Pour dressing over salad and toss again to coat everything well.  Serve.

Note: You can make this ahead for a later meal by keeping adding a little olive oil to the salad to keep the noodles from sticking together and waiting to dress it until meal time.  Just chill salad and dressing in the fridge separately.

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