Rice Noodle Salad Redux

Tomorrow is my company’s holiday potluck and I volunteered, as usual, to bring a salad. So last night I went to Wegmans and wandered around until inspiration struck. I decided to go with a rice noodle salad, so I bought a few things and then tonight whipped up a sauce to pull them all together. I knew I had posted a rice noodle salad here a few months ago, but I didn’t realize until now that what I made was almost identical. Nonetheless, I took a bunch of pictures of it, so I’m posting it anyway!

Rice Noodle Salad…again

1 package rice noodles
about 3″ of a wide daikon, shredded, julienned, or cut on spiralizer
2 carrots, shredded, julienned, or cut on spiralizer
a few leaves of savoy or Napa cabbage, shredded
1 red bell pepper, thinly julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame paste
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp lime juice
sriracha to taste

Prepare the noodles. Begin by soaking them in cold-to-room-temperature water for 10 minutes (this prevents them from sticking to each other later), then heat the water to a near boil and cook just until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with a bit of sesame oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Prepare each of the vegetables by julienning, shredding, or cutting on a spiralizer. Here is my daikon:

And here is my cabbage:

Put each of the vegetables in a bowl as you prep them.

Chop the cilantro, then place in the bowl with the vegetables. Set aside.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust the ratio of each to suit your taste; I just estimated above what I used. I adore this little Fire King bowl for making small amounts of sauce.

Whisk. This sauce would also be good as a dipping sauce for summer rolls. In fact, it ended up kind of watered down in the salad, but was good enough to show off, so I might have to make it again soon for dipping.

Put the noodles into a large bowl or pot, then thoroughly mix in the sauce.

Add the vegetables and toss until everything is combined.

I’m thinking this will be a good potluck dish because it doesn’t need to be warmed before serving and in fact can just sit on my desk for a couple of hours in the morning instead of taking up space in the refrigerator.

The bundle of cilantro I bought was HUGE! Help me out: what are your favorite cilantro-centric recipes?

In other news, I had some Tofutti ricotta left over from my taste test last week, so I thought I’d sprinkle some on a butternut squash before baking. Mistake. The Tofutti ricotta did okay in the pasta bake I made for my review, but it did not fare as well baked “in the open” instead of mixed in a casserole and covered. I put a bunch of the ricotta in the hole left by the seeds, and a thin layer on the rest of the squash. The ricotta in the hole melted to a very thin, watery, tasteless liquid, and the remainder of it turned…kinda brown and crusty. Looks like cat food, non?

That whole brown part was hollow and crispy and slid right off the squash. The ricotta added absolutely no taste to the squash; it was like water. (The brown part was like crispy water, I guess.) I should have just poured it off and sprinkled some of my normal brown sugar on the squash; it would have been much better. I definitely won’t be buying that stuff again. I gave the rest of it to Gomez, who likes it far better than I do, though I can’t imagine why.

What’s that you say? You miss the raccoons? Well, that’s understandable!

Scrumpy was found alone near a school a few weeks ago. As you may expect, young raccoons like toys similar to those you would give your cat or dog. They are so dexterous and curious, however, that they also enjoy toys made for human children, with buttons they can push and parts they can yank on. They get into as much trouble than a toddler, that’s for sure!

Renata is much larger than Scrumpy and in fact her siblings were released months ago, but she wasn’t ready to go. She’s adopted Scrumpy and will over-winter with us to take care of him, which works out well because raccoons like company and also learn from each other as they grow. Renata kept pushing her face into the camera when I was trying to take Scrumpy’s picture. Does your cat or dog walk towards you whenever you try to take a picture? Raccoons are like that too, except I think usually their motive is more to steal your camera than to say hi.

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Rice Noodle Salad

Summer is waning, I’m sorry to say. Instead of a blast of already-100-degree heat on my face when I leave for work in the mornings, it’s pleasant, even cool sometimes. It’s a bittersweet time of year because although it’s nice to have a relief from the oppressive heat, I hate to see summer end. Fortunately (or not), it’s usually still quite warm to hot during the day, especially when you are cleaning raccoon enclosures. So last night’s dinner was still a welcome almost-no-cook treat.

Rice Noodle Salad

1 package rice noodles – I used wide ones, but thinner ones would work too
1 huge or 3 smaller carrots, cut on a spiralizer or julienned
1 small daikon, cut on a spiralizer or julienned
1 cucumber, cut on a spiralizer or julienned
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 small head Savoy (or about 2 cups Napa) cabbage, shredded
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

For the dressing
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 red chili pepper, minced

If you really don’t want to cook anything, soak the noodles in very hot water. I’m too impatient to do that and always boil mine for a couple of minutes. When they are al dente, drain them, rinse under cold water, and toss with some toasted sesame oil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prep all of the vegetables. Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. Then toss everything together except the peanuts and scallions. I used my hands to mix everything together before realizing that was a really stupid move considering I used a jolokia pepper in the sauce, but for some reason, it didn’t burn. (I’m not convinced what this farmer is selling to Whole Foods as jolokia peppers are really jolokias; they’re not that hot.)

Top with crushed peanuts and scallions. Serve with sriracha.

I also served tofu puffs with a sweet chili-vinegar dipping sauce. Super H sells these tofu puffs, which Mark loves:

I cut them in half and toast them in the toaster oven for one to two toast cycles to warm them up and make them slightly crispy outside:

I make a dipping sauce for them based on a recipe I got off the internet many, many years ago, back when I actually owned one of those evil appliances called a printer and used to print out recipes and store them in a huge, untamed notebook. I think I lost the printout so I can’t tell you where I got the recipe (I think a Thai recipe site) or if I’m even still making it as directed.

Sweet Chili-Vinegar Dipping Sauce

3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp chili-garlic sauce
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
pinch of salt

Whisk everything together.

Serve with the warmed tofu puffs.

Now, about those raccoons. They’re often asleep when I arrive to clean their enclosure.

You learn very quickly to NEVER put ANYTHING you don’t want mutilated within reach of a raccoon. They are extremely devious! Here is one on its back destroying a paper towel I made the mistake of putting down for half a second.

But seriously, how could you possibly be mad at this face?

Or this one?

Answer: you can’t.

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Bun Rieu, or Vietnamese "Crab" Noodle Soup, and vegan "shrimp" paste

The other day I was making the unprecedented move of checking the comments automatically marked as spam on this here ole blog, and I came across a single one that I wasn’t entirely sure was really spam. Someone identifying himself as “San Antonio personal injury lawyer” had left a comment on my Spicy Vermicelli Soup post saying my soup sounded a lot like the Vietnamese dish Bun Rieu. I looked up Bun Rieu to see if it really did sound similar to my recipe, figuring if it did, the comment was legit enough for me. It did seem a little similar – in that it’s a soup and it involves rice vermicelli – so I approved the comment, but I found myself interested in this Bun Rieu as a byproduct. It did sound delicious…but decidedly unvegan: full of crab and shrimp and fish sauce. If you know me at all by now, though, you’ll recognize that I immediately viewed this as a challenge. I shall make vegan Bun Rieu!

I need to be clear though: I’ve never had Bun Rieu, or even heard of it before being left a possible spam comment on my blog a couple of days ago. All I know about it is a few recipes I was able to scrounge up on the internet (this one was probably the most helpful). I couldn’t tell you if what I ended up with was anything remotely like Bun Rieu. I can tell you that it was pretty darn good, though, and I’m glad I got that comment, spam or not. This is me in my element: challenged to veganize some crazy Asian dish I’ve never actually had. Especially a soup. (Have you noticed I sort of love soup?)

Now, first of all, I want you to know that I have not become a spokeswoman for Nature’s Soy, although I just did a post on one of their products earlier today and I’m using two of their products in this meal. In fact, it wasn’t until just a couple of weeks ago that I even realized that several of the tofu and seitan products I’ve been buying at Super H and other Asian grocery stores are from the same company, Like the tofu puffs I use in this recipe: I used to buy them all the time to make a recipe that Mark loves (I’ll do a post on it soon), but I had no idea they were made by the same people who make the “chicken” seitan I use in my “tuna” salad until tonight when I looked more closely at the packaging. Rather than looking at brand names, I usually just immediately flip everything over and stare at the ingredients list. Conditioning is a funny thing.

Anyway, on with my Bun Rieu experience. Bun Rieu is not just full of crab meat; it also contains shrimp and/or shrimp paste (as well as, often, fish sauce), all of which may seem like pretty big deterrents for veganization. I had already decided that if I could get away with using that chicken-style seitan as tuna, I could use it for crab, but what to do about shrimp paste? My first thought was actually to use some Thai green curry paste. A lot of Thai curries contain shrimp paste, so I guess I associate the two in my head, and I figured the curry paste – a vegan version of which I have on hand – is pungent and salty like I assume shrimp paste is. I’ve never had shrimp paste so this is a guess. But I wanted to see if I could concoct something, maybe something that those of you who don’t have access to ready-made vegan Thai curry paste might be able to make. So first, I’ll show you how I made vegan “shrimp” paste, then I’ll show you my Bun Rieu using it.

“Shrimp” Paste

1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced, pressed, or smashed
1 cube vegan vegetable bouillon
1/4 tsp salt (I used pink Himalayan, mostly because of the four different kinds of salt I keep out in salt pigs, it’s used the least often and I figured it deserved some glory today)
1 tsp miso (optional – it tasted good even before I mixed this in)
1 1/2 tsp powdered kelp
1/4 tsp ground dry lemongrass (this is a bit esoteric and therefore optional; you could use a bit of fresh lemongrass if you have it on hand)
1 tsp black vinegar, optional

Mince the shallot(s).

Put the shallots, garlic, salt, lemongrass, kelp, and crumbled bouillon cube into a mortar …

… and crush to a paste with the pestle. Add the black vinegar if you have it, although I tasted it before adding and it was good without it, so don’t go out of your way to buy black vinegar just for this.

Looks delicious, no? I ended up with just about a quarter cup.

Moving on…

Bun Rieu, or Veitnamese “Crab” Noodle Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 red hot chili pepper, sliced
  • 2-4 tomatoes, quartered OR 1 can diced or whole tomatoes OR 1/2 can diced or whole tomatoes + 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used the latter because that’s what I had on hand)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup vegan “shrimp” paste (see recipe above)
  • 4 cups vegan “chicken” or vegetable stock
  • 1 package Nature’s Soy chicken-style seitan OR 16 oz tofu, chopped OR 1 large can young green jackfruit, shredded
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 Tbsp vegan “fish’ sauce OR soy sauce
  • rice vermicelli

For garnish

  • bean sprouts
  • mint leaves
  • tia to (perilla) leaves
  • scallions
  • fried tofu puffs (optionally chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • sriracha

Don’t not make this because you can’t find this style of seitan. While most homemade seitan is too dense and chewy to provide the right texture, tofu would have been very good in this. It may not have been anything like crab meat, but it would have been very good.

Do your mise en place: chop the onions, scallions, and tomatoes, mince or press the garlic, slice the chili pepper, chop the tofu puffs, pull apart the seitan or chop the tofu.

In a heavy soup pot, heat some oil, then add the onions and cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the chili peppers, fresh or canned tomatoes, and tomato paste and cook a minute or two.

Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except vermicelli (and garnishes), reduce heat, and simmer for five minutes.

Add the rice vermicelli. I wanted to show you how much I added, so here it is. That mole on my hand looks like an eye and it looks like my hand is eating the vermicelli, does it not?

Cook until the vermicelli is done. This will vary depending on brand and how thick it was; this brand took longer to cook than the stuff I used for my previous soup. (It was also unsettlingly spaghetti-like.)

Here’s the finished product:

To assemble, ladle some of the soup into a large bowl.

Garnish with as many or as few of the garnishes as you’d like, keeping in mind that I personally find lime pretty important: squeeze it all over the soup and mix in. Obviously sriracha’s a given for me too.

And that’s it! It looks harder than it really is; I’ve called for a lot of ingredients, but most of them get tossed in at the same time, so this is a fairly fast meal. I thought it was really good; I was pretty impressed with myself. I have no idea if it tastes or even looks like true Bun Rieu, but I’ll make this again.

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