I could probably serve this salad once a week and my family wouldn't complain. One daughter has declared it her "favorite meal," but if I remember right, I think she has declared a lot of meals as her favorite. She is a lover of good food and I can appreciate that! Someone once called Nuoc Cham dressing Nectar of the Gods. I've had some Nuoc Cham that I wouldn't classify as Nectar of the Gods, but this one may be pretty close. While peanuts are a traditional element of this salad, in place of peanuts, we LOVE a little drizzle of peanut sauce on our salad. In fact, we think the peanut sauce takes this salad over the top! This is a fun salad for entertaining, served buffet style. Everyone can assemble their salad to their liking, which means less work for you! It's also a great weekend meal when people are coming and going at different times, just put the components in the fridge and let everyone assemble their own plate.
Vietnamese Salad (bún gà nướng)
Large bowlful of dark romaine lettuce, or bok choy chopped
400 grams rice noodles, cooked
1 large carrot shredded or finely julienned
1 cucumber, sliced or diced
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced and cut in thirds
3-4 chicken thighs, cooked (or left-over roasted chicken) We like to season with RealTaste Hope Seasoning
1-2 cups bean sprouts, radishes, or jicama, optional
Herbs of choice, optional ie: cilantro, basil, mint ( a handful, finely minced)
1. Prepare the desired ingredients.
2. Layer the romaine, rice noodles, carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, chicken, bean sprouts and herbs.
3. Top with several generous spoonfuls of Nuoc Cham Dressing.
4. Drizzle with peanut sauce, if desired.
Nuoc Cham Dressing
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp. fish sauce, *see notes
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
Salt, to taste
Thai chiles, finely chopped or sliced, optional
1. Mix together ingredients in a small container.
2. Some fish sauce is more salty than others, you may need to add a pinch or two of salt to get the flavor just right.
3. Store in the fridge.
Fish sauce is stinky! But it really is the quintessential ingredient in Nuoc Cham. I don't think you'll notice it once it's mixed in with the other ingredients and salad, but if it's still a no go, check out the option below.
If you're opposed to fish sauce, or need a substitute, try Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or a soy sauce alternative. Soy sauce and soy sauce alternatives will have differing levels of salt, so you'll need to play around with the amount to get the flavor just right.
You can add a clove of minced garlic, but I find it can easily over power the dressing. If you do use it, add it just before serving.
If you're adding chiles, add them close to serving time, as they can also over power the dressing's flavor.
If you don't eat peanuts, consider making the peanut sauce with another type of nut or seed butter. I find sesame seeds (tahini paste) to be fairly similar to peanut butter. Some people substitute sunflower butter, which is also similar, with a bit of a grassy after-taste.
MAKE IT EVEN HEALTHIER
Use high quality organic brown rice noodles.
Use spiralized vegetables in place of the rice noodles.
Make a power bowl using some kind of whole grain in place of the rice noodles, I like buckwheat groats as the taste is very neutral taste. Make your bowl with a little buckwheat for good carbs and energy and a lot of vegetables. This is especially good with the addition of peanut sauce.
Use some or all Bok Choy for the greens. It has wonderful crunch, like Romain and has excellent nutrition and flavor. Baby Bok Choy is more mild.
Leave out the chicken and substitute Bragg's Liquid Aminos for the fish sauce.