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Master Recipe for Cool Noodle Salads

Ben Fink

Servings: four.

If you like, prepare the greens and garnishes in advance and refrigerate. Cook the noodles up to two hours ahead and keep at room temperature. At serving time, you’ll just have to prepare the toppings.


For the greens:

  • 2 cups washed and shredded romaine, red, or green leaf lettuce
  • 2 cups fresh, crisp bean sprouts
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and julienned cucumber
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup roughly chopped or small whole mint leaves
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup roughly chopped or small basil or Thai basil leaves

For the garnishes:

  • 2 Tbs. chopped roasted peanuts
  • 12 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • Nuoc cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce) 

For the noodles:

  • 8 oz. dried rice vermicelli

For the Topping:


  • For the greens and herbs: Divide the lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, and basil among four large soup or pasta bowls. If working ahead of time, cover each bowl with damp paper towels and refrigerate.
  • For the garnishes: Set peanuts aside. Make 1 recipe nuoc cham and refrigerate.
  • For the noodles: Bring a medium potful of water to a rolling boil. Add the rice vermicelli and, stirring often, cook them until the strands are soft and white, but still resilient, 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t be tempted to undercook them, as they must be fully cooked to absorb the flavors of the dish. Rinse them in a colander under cold water just until they’re cool and the water runs clear. Let the noodles drain in the colander for 30 minutes, and then set them aside for up to 2 hours, unrefrigerated.
  • For the topping: Follow the directions for one of the recipes (Warm Lemongrass Shrimp, Vietnamese Grilled Pork, or Stir-Fried Vegetables). These toppings can be served hot or slightly cooled.
  • To assemble the salads: Remove the salad bowls from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before serving. The greens and bowl should be cool, not cold. Fluff the noodles with your fingers and divide them among the prepared salad bowls. Put the cooked topping on the noodles and garnish each bowl with the peanuts and cilantro. Pass the nuoc cham at the table; each diner should drizzle about 3 Tbs. over the salad and then toss the salad in the bowl a few times with two forks or chopsticks before eating.


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Reviews (2 reviews)

  • suenew | 06/10/2010

    best summer party recipe *ever*...and very forgiving of changes and tweaks. I've mixed up steps for simplicity, eg tossed herbs in with finished noodles, etc. Dipping sauce makes this one.

  • ask4janice | 04/11/2010

    this salad is fantastic! made it for my mother's birthday dinner last night and she said it was better than in a restaurant! i went with the lemongrass shrimp topping. the kids didn't love the basil/mint much but gobbled everything else up. will be making this a LOT this summer!

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