Rice noodles, crunchy salad, fresh herbs and chilli tossed together with a tangy dressing and topped with crispy on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside tofu pieces, make this Vietnamese noodle salad a light, fresh meal perfect for lunch or dinner.
I became pretty obsessed with Vietnamese noodles salads when I was at my previous job. We were in an office just outside of the CBD with limited food options. One of those options was a small Vietnamese shop that did some pretty delicious food.
After I moved from this office, I found the franchise Roll’d and I continued my love of Vietnamese noodle salads, this time opting for the vegetarian option of crispy tofu and the most incredible spring rolls with a lattice pastry. Now I haven’t yet got to the point of being able to try and make the spring rolls at home, but I am halfway there with the noodle salad base.
There are a few things for me that are really really important in a Vietnamese noodle salad, and it all starts with the noodles. The noodles are a rice vermicelli and are really thin and smooth and at their best eaten cold. While you can buy these in the supermarket, I have never been 100% happy with the quality and found that they didn’t match that of my favourite shops.
At my local Asian grocer however I was able to find dried rice vermicelli noodles, promising the texture of fresh and a product of Vietnam. These are the noodles designed for salads and rolls and were exactly what I was looking for. If possible, I definitely recommend checking out an Asian grocer as the range and quality is just going to be better than from the supermarket. But if you don’t have that option, the supermarket ones will do just fine. I’m just a noodle snob.
The next bit is the salad. Crunchy, thinly sliced carrots, cucumber and iceberg lettuce is what we have here. If you have a julienne attachment for your food processor I would recommend getting it out here as it is going to make things a whole lot easier. If not, like me, you are in for some therapeutic knife work as you slice through your veg.
The slicing however is really important for the overall dish. The carrot and cucumber should be the same thickness as the noodles, but provide that textural crunch. It all works perfectly when it comes together.
The final thing that makes this truly a Vietnamese noodle salad is the dressing called nuoc cham. This is a traditional Vietnamese sauce that is a balance of salty, sweet, sour, savoury and spice. Get out your fish sauce and don’t be afraid to use it. Balanced with lime and fresh garlic and chilli, this sauce packs the flavour.
Today my Vietnamese noodle salad is vegetarian and uses crispy baked tofu as the protein. The reason for this was for a few reasons, being that tofu is quick cooking, simple to prepare and very inexpensive. All of these things being really important to me in my current cooking situation.
Normally I make my tofu crispy in the pan, but it may not always be successful. I recently however found Cookie & Kate’s method for perfect, works every time crispy tofu made in the oven. I love this method as it’s hands off, so my tofu can be cooking away while I prep the rest of the salad. Also, this method creates a soft, creamy texture inside and is crunchy on the outside which is just so good, and really the only way to eat tofu.
You can use any protein you like really – I have thoughts about creating a lemongrass beef version – but I haven’t got that far yet.
Top off your salad with lots of fresh herbs, I like to use mint (you may use coriander as well, I won’t), some fresh chilli if you like heat, and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts for more flavour and texture.
One of the things I love about this salad is that it is so flavourful and enjoyable to eat with all the different textures, yet while it fills you up it doesn’t give you a heavy, bloated feeling. It is so light and fresh, which is perfect for all this heat we have been experiencing!
Now I can enjoy my favourite Vietnamese noodle salad at home, exactly how I like it (and a fraction of the cost…) and so can you. It just takes a little prep work to get the ingredients ready but it really is simple, delicious and so fresh, it will quickly become a favourite of yours as well!
If you do make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and rating below! And tag any of your creations on Instagram with #eightforestlane as I would love to see.
Vietnamese Noodle Salad
- 300 grams firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
- 400 grams vermicelli rice noodles
- 1 cucumber, seeds removed and julienned
- 1-2 carrots, julienned
- ¼ head iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
- 1 cup fresh herbs (mint and/or coriander)
- ½ cup peanuts, lightly crushed
- fresh chilli (optional)
Dressing (Nuoc Cham)
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, approx. 2 limes
- 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1-2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 1 birdseye chilli, finely diced
- Prepare the tofu. Press tofu by placing two paper towels on a chopping board, followed by the tofu, then another two paper towels and placing a heavy based saucepan or skillet on top. Let the tofu press to remove excess moisture for 10-30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 200°C and line a large tray with baking paper. Chop the tofu into squares and place in a bowl with the oil, soy sauce and cornflour and toss until the tofu is completely coated. Place the tofu on the tray and bake for 30 minutes, turning the tofu halfway through, until completely golden in colour.
- While the tofu is cooking, boil a large pot of water. Add vermicelli noodles and cook for 3-5 minutes. Drain and plunge noodles into cold water to stop the cooking. Keep noodles covered in water to prevent sticking and set aside until ready to serve.
- Add all dressing ingredients to a jar and shake to combine.
- Assemble the noodles salad by adding some of the drained vermicelli noodles to a serving bowl and topping with cucumber, carrot, lettuce, fresh herbs, crushed peanuts, and fresh chilli if desired. Drizzle generously with the dressing and add crispy tofu on top.