This wonderful Thai Chicken and Rice Noodle Salad is another gem from Everyday Food. I've never before cooked with rice noodles, and to be honest I can't even recall if I'd ever eaten them before making this recipe. They're sort of foreign to me, and I generally tend to shy away from foods I'm unfamiliar with. I either think they'll be too hard to make or I won't like them. Well, this recipe proved me wrong on both counts. This rice noodle dish is easy to make and delicious. In fact, making it made me wonder why I don't see these noodles being used more often. They cook up so much faster than any other kind of pasta that I'm surprised I haven't seen them featured in a thirty-minute meal. No matter. I've found them now, and I'll be looking forward to finding more ways to use them.
So, as I said, this recipe is E-Z. The hardest part is chopping the vegetables, and that's not hard at all, just a bit time-consuming (but not too much so). The noodles are a breeze to cook. They're literally ready in two minutes. The chicken cooks up super-fast, too, because it's sliced very thinly. To help get those thin slices, you can pop the chicken in the freezer a bit until it firms up. It's much easier to slice a firm piece of meat than it is a squishy one. Personally, I always have a supply of boneless skinless chicken breasts in the freezer, and I just move some to the fridge the morning I'll be preparing the dish and slice them up before they've fully thawed. Of course, a sharp knife helps, too.
This salad is light and perfect for summer. The noodles don't have much flavor themselves, but they take on the flavor of the sauce, which is basically jazzed up soy sauce and rice vinegar. It's super yummy. Plus, this is the kind of dish that can please just about anyone, because you can choose your own toppings. For example, if you're serving it for a family meal, I recommend giving everyone a dish of noodles and chicken (or pork or beef), and setting the sauce and toppings out buffet-style so everyone can assemble their own salad. I used carrots, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, radishes, scallions, basil, and peanuts.
Finally, I just think it's pretty. I don't always get excited about vegetables, but there's something about the colors of this dish that just makes me want to dig in. So we've got easy, delicious, and pretty. I'm sold.
Thai Chicken and Rice Noodle Salad
Adapted from Everyday Food
Spicy Asian Dressing
4 thinly sliced scallion whites (reserve tops for garnish)
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced crosswise
3 1/2 ounces thin rice noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 carrots, sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
Alfalfa sprouts, sliced radishes, chopped peanuts, fresh mint leaves, red-pepper flakes, and sliced scallion greens, for garnish (optional)
Combine all dressing ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until sugar has dissolved. Transfer half of dressing to a resealable plastic bag, add chicken, and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes (or refrigerate up to overnight). Reserve remaining dressing for serving.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until tender, about 2 minutes (times may vary depending on the thickness of your noodles—check package instructions). Drain, and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Transfer to a platter.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken (do not crowd skillet) until cooked through and nicely browned, about 2 minutes; transfer to platter on top of noodles.
Top with carrots, cucumber, and basil. Drizzle with reserved dressing, and sprinkle with garnishes, if desired.