Cold Vietnamese noodle salad - wonderfully refreshing on hot summer days, and easy to make! This is more of a formula than a recipe.
Noodles: 1 package of thin rice noodles. Easy to find at your local Asian market, or sometimes even a Big Chain Grocer in the "International" aisle. Cook these in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, just until al dente, then drain and rinse in cold water until completely cooled. If you want to keep them from sticking, toss with a smidge of veggie oil. Set aside.
Veggies: Shredded carrots, shredded daikon, mung bean sprouts, thinly sliced cucumber, diced sugar snap peas, and shredded lettuce (optional) in the proportions you desire
Herbs: Basil, cilantro, and mint, in fairly equal quantities - don't skimp on the herbs, they are a big part of the flavor and freshness of this dish!
Shrimp: Get a two pound bag of frozen raw shrimp (the peeled kind is easiest). Thaw them and pinch off the tails, then chop roughly in a food processor or with a knife. Mix with two teaspoons of brown sugar, two teaspoons of coarse salt, and two or three big cloves of chopped garlic. Heat a couple of teaspoons of veggie oil over medium heat and cook the shrimp mixture until the shrimp are just cooked through and pink all over; transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature (or stick in the fridge to chill).
Sauce: This is a variation on Nuoc Cham, a traditional Vietnamese sauce. You can simmer this over the stove to dissolve the sugar, but I just mix everything in a Pyrex measuring cup and stick it in the nuker for a minute or so. Here's the general list of ingredients - tweak to your taste: 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, fresh juice from two limes, freshly grated ginger (I use the stuff in a tube from the produce section), a healthy squeeze of Sriracha hot sauce or Asian chili paste, and about 1/2 cup of water.
Garnish: Chopped unsalted peanuts (stick them in a Ziploc and smash them with a can, if you don't want to bother chopping them).
Assembly: In a big bowl, pile up some of the veggie and herb mixtures, then pile on a generous amount of the cold rice noodles. Spoon on the cooled shrimp mixture, sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and drizzle with sauce. Ahhhh! Delicious! You can top this with a little Hoisin sauce or more Sriracha as you desire.
Variations on the theme: Instead of the cold shrimp mixture, use char-grilled flank steak, sliced thin; crunchy spring rolls, cut into slices; marinated tofu; or just leave it out entirely and have a yummy bowl of veggies and noodles.