During the “Dog Days” of summer, when the last thing I feel like doing is heating up the kitchen, or even firing up the grill, I often fall back on this quick and easy Vietnamese classic. The clean flavors, fragrant herbs and fresh acidity keep me from feeling wilted, and perk up my appetite when it’s too hot to eat.
It is simple to prepare, and most of the ingredients can be found in the Asian section of any supermarket. If I expect a heat wave of several days, I make a big batch and leave some undressed for the following day.
1 package cellophane noodles, also known as bean threads or glass noodles
2 large cooked boneless breasts of chicken
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into julienne
1/2 cup shelled roasted peanuts
1 cup fragrant herbs such as mint, coriander and basil
For the Dressing
6 Tablespoons Asian fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 small hot chili, seeds removed and cut into rings (optional)
Open the package of cellophane noodles, and place in a large bowl. Cover with hot water and soak for several minutes, until soft. Drain well and set aside.
Shred the chicken into thin strips. This is best done with your fingers. Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the cabbage, red onion, and carrot, and soaked cellophane noodles.
In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili, if using. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more sugar or fish sauce if too acidic.
Pour the dressing over the chicken and cabbage mixture and toss well to combine. Add the roasted peanuts, and toss again. Arrange the salad on a serving plate or platter, scatter on the fresh herbs, and serve.
written by Jim Becker, Chinatown guide