This Rice Noodle Salad with Chicken and Fresh Herbs is a take on the classic Vietnamese “bun” (pronounced “boon”) salad, which is one of my favorite meals. The salad features lots of crisp veggies, bright, fresh herbs, and savory chicken on a bed of chewy, light rice noodles. Topped with a highly flavorful sweet and sour dressing, this salad can’t be beat! Having worked as a waitress in a Vietnamese restaurant for 6 years during and after college, I can’t tell you how many rice noodle salads I’ve eaten in my life – and I never tire of them!
The salad starts with rice noodles, specifically vermicelli style rice noodles. These are the thinner sized noodles, sort of like angel hair pasta. These rice noodles are boiled for 5-6 minutes, then quickly drained and rinsed under cold water. You want to make sure not to boil the noodles too long, or they will disintegrate into the water. I’m speaking from experience here! Now you’ll work on the lettuce and other veggies. I like to cut everything into a thinner julienne because it makes it easier to twirl it all up together with the rice noodles. I’ve used shredded romaine lettuce, sliced green onions and julienned cucumbers, red bell peppers and carrots, but you can use any vegetables you like.
To make prepping the carrots really quick and easy, I use my julienne peeler. I got this as a gift years ago and really like it! You just run the blade down the peeled carrot, and bam! you have julienned carrots. You could use the julienne peeler for daikon radishes too if you couldn’t resist the urge to use it again.
An important component to this type of salad is the use of fresh herbs. Basil, mint and cilantro are the classics, and that’s what I’ve used in my recipe too. I also like to top the salad with chopped cashews or peanuts and thinly sliced radishes for extra crunch, saltiness and a little “bite” from the radish.
The great thing about this salad is that you can use any protein you like in it. I happened to have roasted chicken, but any kind of grilled meat is also amazing. Beef, shrimp, chicken, tofu, pork – anything goes!
The main flavoring for the rice noodle salad is a traditional sweet and sour dressing. It features rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce. Fish sauce is a fermented anchovy sauce that’s used in many Asian cuisines, especially Thai and Vietnamese. It has amazing flavor (I also use it in my Red Curry Beef Pot Roast), but you do not want to smell it when you open the bottle! Just trust me, you will love this dressing. It’s similar to the one you’ve probably dipped crispy spring rolls in at your favorite Asian restaurant.
This Rice Noodle Salad with Chicken and Fresh Herbs will feed a crowd, so it’s perfect for get togethers. It’s also really healthy and light! You will feel satisfied and good about yourself as you sit back in your chair and pat your belly. Then you can pat yourself on the back for making such a delicious meal!
- ½ cup fish sauce
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chili garlic paste
- ½ pound dry rice noodles, vermicelli style
- 2 carrots, julienned (shredded)
- 6 scallions, white and light green parts sliced
- ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cup English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 3 cups romaine lettuce, shredded
- ¼ cup each fresh mint, basil and cilantro, chopped or torn
- 3-4 cups cooked chicken, I used leftover roasted chicken
- ½ cup peanuts or cashews, roughly chopped
- Sliced radishes, optional
- Prepare the rice noodles according to the package directions. Rinse in a colander under cold water until the noodles are cool to the touch. Set aside. You can also make the noodles the day before and store in the fridge.
- Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl or a jar until the sugar is dissolved. The dressing can also be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to a week.
- Prepare the veggies and herbs and mix together in a large bowl.
- In your serving dish, layer the cooled rice noodles, veggies, herbs and chicken. Toss with ½ of the dressing or to taste.
- Serve in individual bowls topped with chopped nuts, sliced radishes and additional dressing on the side.