I recall visting Thai friends on lazy, sweltering afternoons in their homes and finding their extended family members under the influence of indolent heat, sprawled out on timeworn floors of the veranda supported by equally timeworn stilts, peacefully resting in the shade. It made me want to do the same, and I was welcome to lay out my sarong and find a spot. A comfortable position would soon be found; I would find myself sitting or laying there happy to have escaped the sun rays, dust billows from back country roads, and scooter vibrations, relishing the shade and tranquility until a platter of fresh herbs and vegetables would arrive with some nam phrik, a chili shrimp paste based sauce, to dip into. Slowly, the family members would wake and sounds of squeaks and creaks from the wooden planks and shuffling would stir as they gathered around the platter to share this afternoon snack. As I bit into this fresh, crisp combination of raw herb and vegetable dipped into nam phrik on this hot and lazy, sultry day my senses had been awakened.
While eating my way through Thailand in the early 90's, my palate received an education in appreciation of fresh herbs and raw vegetables. A habit I picked up is adding fresh herbs (herbs! herbs! herbs!) to almost everything. I love that it simply livens any plate up and adds subtle or bursts of flavor to it. In this glass noodle dish, be very generous with your herbs.
Glass Noodle Salad
• 500 grams cellophane noodles (a.k.a vermicelli bean thread, glass, and mung bean noodles)
• 7 whole carrots, raw and julienned
• 250 grams snowpeas, raw and julienned
• 2 celery branches (optional), raw and julienned
• 1-2 bunches of fresh coriander
• Bunch of fresh mint
• 1 shallot, minced
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
• A thumb's length of lemongrass (optional), slit lengthwise and bruised slightly
• 2 tablespoons or 50 grams palm sugar or regular sugar
• 1/2 cup sushi vinegar
• 2 tablesoons soy sauce or tamari sauce (gluten-free)
• 1 tablespoon Sriracha
• 4 tablespoons sesame oil
• 2 whole lime
• 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce or Vietnamnese vegetarian fish sauce
Bring a big pot of water to boil and then turn it off.
Add the noodles in the boiled water for 5-10 minutes. Drain. Then run under cool water and drain again. The noodles will look white and translucent. Transfer it to a large mixing bowl.
Add some sesame oil to the noodles to keep them from sticking.
Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut through the noodles to shorten their length. Leave on the side and begin to prepare the vegetables.
Combine all your prepared raw vegetables in a medium mixing bowl and set it aside.
Rinse and dry your coriander and mint. Tear the coriander leaves and the mint leaves off their stems or simply use your kitchen shears and trim the herbs into a bowl.
Combine your noodles and vegetables. Add the dressing.
Toss together, add the herbs, and toss again.
This is a great dish to prepare in advance. I find the longer the noodles and vegetables sit in the dressing, the more flavor it soaks up.
In a measuring cup add the shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and palm sugar.
Pour in the sushi vinegar, add the tamari (or soy sauce), the Sriracha, sesame oil and the juice of the whole limes. Stir until all the ingredients are mixed in together. (If you don't mind bits and pieces of the shallot, garlic and ginger—this is the way I do it by hand. Otherwise, throw everything into a blender although you will have pulp from the ginger so you'll have to pass it through a strainer).
If you use lemongrass, let the dressing stand (the longer the better—for at least an hour) until the flavor of the lemongrass infuses into the dressing. Then discard the lemongrass and mix the dressing in with the noodles in the mixing bowl. Add the vegetables and herbs and toss until everything is coated with the dressing.
You can switch your vegetables up between carrots, beansprouts, snow peas, celery and whatever other vegetable you imagine to go along with it. My favorite combo is with carrots and snowpeas. You can also top it off with some shrimp or morsels of chicken.