Now that Spring is upon us we’re looking for something lighter and cooler. Vietnamese-style noodle salads like this one deliver on both counts – yet are full of flavour and won’t weigh you down. We like this for lunch on a weekend or a light dinner when we’ve over-indulged a tad.

This noodle salad uses little pork patties – which you can quickly and easily put together in the morning and set aside in the fridge until you’re ready to cook. But you can also use shredded poached or barbecued chicken – it’s a great use of leftovers – or lemongrass-marinated beef. If you’re making the latter, slice about 400g beef into strips and marinade for 30mins in a paste made of 1 lemongrass stalk, 3 cloves garlic smashed or chopped finely, a teaspoon each of fish sauce and caster sugar.

Before I get into the recipe proper, a note about convenience. Obviously fresh is best – and that goes for herbs, spices, etc, but if you’re on the road, camping out or in a van, you’re probably not going to carry the sort of kit you have at home. That’s where those squeezy tubes of ginger, garlic and lemongrass that you find in the veggie section of the supermarket can be lifesavers. I’ll give you the instructions for the fresh stuff, but feel free to take shortcuts too. Just saying.

Vietnamese Salad Dressing

 

What you need

  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped*

What you do with it

  • Put the water, fish sauce, sugar and vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn it down and let it simmer for a couple of minutes to dissolve the sugar.
  • Stir through the lime juice, garlic and chilli.

*A note on the chilli – we like things spicy so tend to leave some seeds in or include all or half of a small Thai style chilli as well. Your call.

The Pork Patties

What you need

  • 500g pork mince
  • 1 garlic clove – crushed, finely diced
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • 1/4 cup green shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

What you do with it

Mix it all together…preferably with your hands. I like to also pick up small amounts and slam it back into the side of the bowl. I have no idea what it does but it does help the mix become quite pliable and sticky.

With wet hands roll into 16 small balls and gently pat to flatten.

Cook in a pan over your burner or on a barbecue. They should take about 3 minutes each side.

The Herb Noodle Salad

What you need

200g rice vermicelli noodles

1 bunch fresh mint, leaves picked

1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked

1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts

We also use basil or Thai basil or Vietnamese mint – depending on what’s available – and assorted salad leaves. I don’t like bean sprouts but apparently, everyone else does so while they won’t appear in my salad, they might show up in yours.

What you do with it

Place the vermicelli in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and stand for 2 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Arrange all your leaves onto a platter with the noodles, top with the patties and pass around the dressing.

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