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Like an Asian salad wrap in a bowl, this recipe shines when you choose your ingredients based on the time of year. Or, do a composed salad with the noodles as a base, vegetables arranged decoratively and a piece of fish on the top. Dressing over all makes a delicious main course salad almost any time of the year!
1 lb. Asian rice vermicelli noodles
½ cup fresh cilantro, washed, dried and chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, washed, dried and chopped
¼ cup fresh Thai basil (or regular basil), washed, dried and chopped
1 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1 lb. small cooked shrimp
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half through their stem ends
Winter vegetable suggestions: blanched sliced carrots, blanched snow peas, tiny blanched broccoli florets, asparagus, etc.
Summer vegetable suggestions: blanched green beans, grilled eggplant, Zucchini sticks, etc.
1 cup chopped toasted peanuts (or cashews)
1 8 oz. jar Thai satay peanut sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice (or more, to taste)
1 tbsp. Asian fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tsp. sambal paste (try sriracha or even Tabasco sauce if sambal is not available), or to taste
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and very finely minced
1 large clove garlic, very finely minced
¼ cup salad oil
Make dressing: Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Make salad: Fill a large pot with 2 quarts water and bring to a boil. Turn flame off and add the rice vermicelli. Stir to make sure all the noodles are submerged in the hot water. Allow the noodles to soak for 8 minutes. Pour noodles into a strainer and rinse them with some cool water. Place the noodles into a large mixing bowl.
Next, toss together the rice noodles, cilantro, mint, basil, scallions and shrimp with your choice of vegetables in a large serving bowl. Next, pour most of the dressing over all and toss again to evenly coat all the ingredients. Taste and add the rest of the dressing if desired. Place the salad into a large decorative salad bowl and sprinkle the chopped toasted peanuts over the top. Serve at room temperature. Serves 10.
*Optional serving suggestion: make arranged salads on individual plates. Start by mixing the noodles with the fresh herbs. Then place the noodle and herb mixture onto salad plates. Place the vegetables you have chosen onto the noodles and top with a piece of cooked fish. Ladle some of the peanut dressing over all and garnish with the chopped peanuts. Makes 10 salads.
*If making the salad ahead of time, mix all the ingredients together without the dressing or the peanuts then refrigerate. Dress the salad and then garnish it just before serving. Salad will keep in the refrigerator a day or two.