Loaded with crunchy veggies and flavorful herbs this Asian rice noodle salad is a quick winner that’s perfect when you are hankering for a zippy and substantial salad that will keep you going and make you smile.
When it comes to cooking and creating new recipes, I frequently look to herbs for flavor profiles by either directly adding them to recipes as centers or enhancers as garnishes. But here’s what often happens: I add a few sprigs of say rosemary to ramp up a basic chickpea pasta dish and then there I sit, with extra fresh herbs that I know won’t be so fresh when I get around to making another recipe that uses them up. That’s where fresh salads can help fill the void and empty the refrigerator.
Fresh herbs are a wonderful way to easily bring extra pizzazz and zip to salads that otherwise, might be a bit boring. When I set out to make a fairly loaded rice noodle salad, I immediately considered what kind of cuisine I was after (Asian) and that turned my attention toward my favorite Asian fresh herbs – Basil; Cilantro (coriander); Mint and here’s why:
Although it’s easy to associate basil with Italian cuisines, it’s widely used in Thai and other Asian cuisines. In general, basil can take on a flavor profile that includes hints of pepper, mint and anise. It can be quite strong which is why I used a bit less than I did of the other fresh herbs for this recipe. To bring out the flavor, you’ll want to tear the leaves, or you can also stack and roll them to create delicate chiffon strips.
Although the terms are used interchangeably, cilantro are the leaves of the coriander plant. Mystery solved. Trust me on this one, if you go off looking for cilantro in Europe, you’ll be spinning your wheels. Here’s it’s all called coriander. When I first moved from the Southwest of the US to The Netherlands, I spent weeks longing for cilantro, only to finally have a friend politely mention that was called coriander.
Because I am a lover of this particular herb with its strong citrusy taste. I include it as an ingredient and garnish with many different cuisines including Latin American, Indian and Asian. For me, there’s never enough and no end to the ways that flavor can enhance foods. Possibly, it’s an overuse on my part, but I’m also mindful that to some folks, cilantro tastes like soap. That’s why you can always keep it to the side, even with something like this rice noodle salad or limit it to a condiment as pico de gallo or mango salsa. That tends to keep everyone happy.
The stems of the coriander plant are flavorful and edible, so don’t spent time picking off the leaves when you prepare it. Some more mature coriander can have really tough brownish stems so try not to use those if you run into them. Other than that, I like to just take washed coriander stalks with the leaves and roll them into a ball and chop them. I makes the process go a bit quicker.
Fresh mint is so popular here, it’s always readily available. It’s a serious Dutch tradition to make fresh mint tea which is brewed by adding a few fresh mint stalks (with leaves on) to boiling water. It’s amazingly delicious, comforting and can settle a dodgy stomach in minutes.
The stalks of mint are barky and tough, so you want to remove the leaves and either tear or chop them. You can also use the chiffon trick by stacking them up, rolling them and slicing. As with any fresh herb, chopping or tearing enhances the flavor and aromas.
Rice noodles are a busy cook’s dream. You can usually find them made with either brown or white rice flour and the other main ingredient is usually just water. We like the wider, flatter kind, but you will also find them as thin vermicelli noodles. If you are cooking gluten free, then rice noodles are something you can consider. Check out your package directions before you prepare them. All brands take just a few minutes to prepare and most of the time, you simply boil water, and cover the noodles and let them soak.
Once you drain them, you might discover that your rice noodles get a bit sticky. One way to combat this is to rinse the noodles in cold water. This will stop the cooking process and help to separate them. Adding dressing further separates the noodles so once you add the noodles to your veggies and fresh herbs just gently mix it around and then pour over the dressing and let it do some of the work.
How to use rice noodles
For this recipe, we’ll be using our rice noodles along with veggies and Adzuki beans to create a flavorful full meal in-a-bowl, but rice noodles come in really handy when you want a quick meal and happen to have some sauce on hand. While they are wonderful with mango or other flavorful Thai curries, rice noodles are equally great smothered with red pepper Romesco sauce and perfect with Bechamel. Hands down though, our favorite is topping rice noodles with spinach curry sauce. That might not be the obvious paring, but don’t knock it until you try it. Seriously, delicious and quick.
Asian oil-free dressing
Just a quick note about the dressing for Asian-inspired rice noodle salad. We like things on the spicy side, so I used an entire red Thai chili pepper; however, you may want to make adjustments depending on your taste. You can also eliminate the red chili entirely and use one of my personal favorites – Sriracha hot sauce.
I also added one thinly sliced lemongrass stalk because it lends a strong lemony zip. This balances out with the lime zest and juice. That said, if you can’t find lemongrass or it’s silly expensive, you can add a tablespoon of lemon zest and recreate that flavor. When using zests, opt for organic whenever you can and wash your fruit thoroughly. The porous skins of lemons and limes readily absorb pesticides which are impossible to wash off no matter how much you scrub.
Rice noodles weren’t always a staple in my house. I lived a lot of my life in rural Colorado and my cooking and eating habits were as far removed then as my location in The Hague and plant-based diet is today. Not only do I now reach for coriander, not cilantro, I probably serve more rice noodles than wheat-based pastas. It’s just a gentle reminder that no matter how set in our ways we think we are, change is always possible. And change doesn’t require moving 5,000 miles. You might just need to put your head up and reach for a new ingredient on the self the next time you shop. Peace.Print
Asian rice noodle salad
Asian rice noodle salad is loaded with crunch veggies, fresh basil, cilantro and basil with Adzuki beans for a quick and healthy meal in a bowl winner.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 big servings 1x
- Category: Salads & Bowls
- Cuisine: Asian
- 8 oz. (225 gm.) rice noodles, cooked according to the package directions and rinsed with cold water
- 1 ½ cups (150 gm.) green beans cut into bite-sized pieces (you can use fresh or frozen)
- 1 - 15 oz. (400 gm.) can Adzuki beans, rinsed and drained (you can also substitute black beans if desired)
- 1 ½ cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
- ½ cucumber, deseeded and diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 6 scallions (green onions), white and green parts sliced
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped
- 1 small bunch of mint, chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 1 small bunch of cilantro (coriander), chopped (about ¾ cup)
- ⅓ cup (40 gm.) raw or unsalted peanuts (optional)
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- Zest and juice of 1 lime (juice to equal about ⅓ cup so juice another lime if necessary)
- 2 tsp. date paste, Agave syrup or another liquid sweetener
- 2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce
- 1 Thai red chili, deseeded and thinly sliced (reduce the amount if you want to cut the heat)
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or minced
- 1 lemongrass stalk, thinly sliced or diced small (you can also use 1 Tbsp. lemon zest)
- Rinse the bean sprouts and prep the cucumber, scallions and the fresh herbs. Add everything to a large salad bowl including the Adzuki beans.
- Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Start the water for the rice noodles and cook them according to the package directions. Rinse them with cold water to help them separate.
- In a small pan, simmer or steam the green beans until they are slightly tender, but still crisp to the bite. Drain the beans and add them to the salad bowl and mix everything.
- Add the cool rice noodles and gently mix them to help them separate.
- Mix in the dressing (I find using my hands is sometimes easier than a spoon or tongs).
- If using, top the salad with the chopped peanuts.
- Nutritional information includes ⅓ cup chopped peanuts.
- Use 2 teaspoons or more of Sriracha hot sauce to replace the red chili.
- If you are using the peanuts you can serve them up on the side. They stay pretty crunchy the next day if mixed into the salad, but they may slightly soften if you want to prepare rice noodle salad as a lunch box meal.
Keywords: Asian rice noodle salad