There are a lot of great things about the dog days of summer, but turning the oven on is not one. When it’s this hot out, stay cool with a Vietnamese-inspired rice noodle salad that combines store-bought rotisserie chicken with crisp veggies and pantry staples you likely already have on hand. Fast, inexpensive to make and livened up with a fresh and zippy dressing, it’s a new way to think about cold chicken salad.
One trick to keeping this recipe no-cook is using rice vermicelli, super-thin angel hair-like rice noodles. They soften almost instantly with the help of an electric kettle, a secret time saver in the kitchen, making it possible to put this dish on the table in less than 20 minutes without ever turning on the oven or stove.
Nuoc cham is a traditional dressing for this style of salad and is typically made with a base of fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. But because I had limited ingredients on hand, this version’s base is made with soy sauce. You can of course substitute fish sauce (or just add a little bit) to get that funky-in-a-good-way umami kick ― Red Boat is a high-quality, super-delicious brand that’s easy to find in grocery stores or on Amazon.
Once the dressing is made, this salad becomes the perfect choose-your-own-adventure dish. Skip the trip to the store and customize your salad with the fresh raw veggies you already have on hand. Substitute the chicken for shrimp, ground pork, extra veggies or even sliced egg rolls. It can be super simple or extra fancy ― the combo possibilities are endless. Top with sesame seeds, peanuts and any fresh herbs you have, such as cilantro, basil or mint. And if you want a spicy kick, give it a drizzle of sriracha or sambal.
If you can’t eat it all in one sitting, the leftovers keep nicely chilled in the fridge for up to three days.
Cold Sesame Rice Noodle Salad
The Basic Dressing (makes 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1. Whisk all the ingredients together vigorously and store in fridge up to 1 week.
Like it spicy? Add 1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce
Creamy? Add 3 teaspoons peanut butter
Umami? Add 1 teaspoon fish sauce
Gluten free? Substitute tamari for soy sauce
No soy? Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce
The Basic Salad (serves 4)
1 4-ounce package vermicelli rice noodles
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup cucumbers, julienned or sliced
Toppings: Serve with chopped roasted peanuts, sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds, cilantro, lime wedges, sriracha
1. Empty your package of rice noodles into a large bowl. Heat 4 cups water in an electric kettle. After it comes to a boil, pour water onto noodles in bowl, just covering the dried noodles. Stir to combine. Wait 3 minutes, then drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. You want them to still have a bit of texture to them.
(No kettle? Don’t worry about boiling water on the stove. Just get the hottest water possible out of your sink and add a few more minutes soaking time.)
2. Toss cooked noodles with chicken, carrots, cucumbers and 1/3 cup dressing. Toss to combine. Continue adding dressing until reaching desired flavor and serve with any remaining dressing tableside along with your favorite toppings.
Add or substitute these vegetables: shredded lettuce or cabbage, radishes, bell peppers or edamame.
No peanuts? Add roasted cashews.
No cilantro? Add mint or basil. Or combine them all.
Pescatarian? Add cooked shrimp.
Vegetarian? Add tofu or even sliced egg rolls to bulk it up!
This salad stays good chilled in the fridge for up to 3 days.