Looking for a summery, refreshing, and unlaborious idea for dinner that can be finished in less than 20 minutes? Try this Vietnamese salad made with an ethereal dressing infused with the robust flavors of citrus, mint, and piquant chili pepper flakes. The simple yet sophisticated flavors from this salad will pirouette upon your tongue and open your palate's horizons to the multifaceted world of Vietnamese cuisine.
To make the nuoc cham salad dressing for the vermicelli bun salad, whisk 1/4 cup of high-quality fish sauce, 1/4 cup of granulated white sugar, 1/2 cup of water, one tsp of crushed red chili flakes (or one minced, deseeded, red Thai bird chili), and the juice from two limes. You may also add a bit of lime zest from the limes too. After the sugar has dissolved, add about five cloves of minced garlic and one carrot, shredded on the large holes of a box grater (not the small holes, as I did here). Adding the carrots into the dressing helps to soften them slightly and allows the carrots to absorb some of the flavor from the tangy and full-bodied marinade.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a 10 oz package dry rice noodles, and boil the rice noodles until they are soft and pliable. Be careful not to overboil the noodles because they can quickly become mushy and disintegrate. Boil the noodles for less than 5 minutes, stirring the noodles periodically to prevent them from sticking together. Keep an eye on them. After five minutes or less, immediately drain the noodles in a colander, and rinse them under cold, running water. As you rinse the noodles, use your hands to swish the noodles around in the running tap water, so that the noodles will cool completely. Shake the colander over the drain to get rid of excess water and divide the noodles evenly into large bowls.
Wash, leaf, and tear 1/4 a head of iceberg lettuce into bite-sized pieces. For more uniformity, you may also shred the lettuce finely. Also peel and thinly slice one large cucumber and coarsely chop 1/2 cup of packed mint leaves. You may also choose to add a handful or two of fresh bean sprouts and several full sprigs cilantro if you'd like. Divide the chilled salad ingredients and organize the salad on top of the noodles.
Finally, portion out the nuoc cham dressing into small bowls, to allow each person to add his or her own dressing to his or her own liking. You may also sprinkle the salad with crushed and roasted peanuts.
Wasn't that easy? Now there is just one more step: serve the salad, and enjoy it! Also, for a great recipe with barbequed pork, check out Oishii Eat's site!