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Posted on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

Vietnamese summer noodle salad - it's like a summer roll unwrapped

By Jessica Webster


This Vietnamese summer roll salad is chock full of vegetables and makes a tasty entree or side salad.

Jessica Webster |

There are some recipes that turn out great. You file them away for special occasions, or maybe add them to your regular meal rotation. And then there are those recipes that turn out so well, you don’t want to share them. You want to eat it all, then make more and eat that too. You want to cook that food every day. You try to imagine all the occasions you might find to serve that dish.

This is one of those recipes. I could eat this salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and be happy. It’s basically a summer roll deconstructed. It’s everything but the rice paper wrapper. And, at the risk of sounding a little repetitive, it’s so very good.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with Vietnamese summer noodle salad since last summer, when The Lunch Room (a food cart in Mark’s Carts on Washington St. in Ann Arbor) had it on their menu. They didn’t bring it back this season, so I’ve been on the hunt for a recipe that makes me nearly as happy.

The Lunch Room’s salad is vegan, but since I’m making this for a crowd that appreciates seafood, I topped it with shrimp. You can easily go vegan with this, though, by eliminating the shrimp or replacing it with tofu, and by replacing the fish sauce with soy sauce.

This is an easy recipe to adapt to be gluten free, as well. Just be on the lookout for fish sauce or soy sauce that is wheat free.

Most of these ingredients are easily found in the produce section and the Asian foods section of your grocery store.

Vietnamese Summer Roll Salad (adapted from the food blog "Running With Tweezers")

  • 1/2 of a 16-ounce package of Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh shrimp (36-40 size), shelled and de-veined. you can season these lightly with salt and pepper, if you’d like.
  • 1 medium cucumber - peeled and julienned
  • 2 large carrots - peeled and cut into long strips with a vegetable peeler or julienned
  • 1 red pepper, sliced very thinly
  • 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
  • 1/3 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil or Thai basil leaves, larger stems removed
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, tough stems removed
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, tough stems removed
  • 2 medium Thai red chilies, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon honey or light agave nectar
  • 6 tablespoons fish sauce - if you are vegetarian, substitute salt or soy sauce for this. just adjust and taste as you go
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • lime wedges, as garnish

For the salad:

Bring a large soup/stockpot of water to a boil. Add in the rice vermicelli noodles and cook until al dente — this should take 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside in a colander until you’re ready to assemble the salad.

In a small skillet, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Stir in the shallot slices and fry until dark, golden brown. Scoop them out of the pan and onto a paper towel to drain. Wipe out the skillet and, adding just a little bit of oil, cook the shrimp until cooked through — 3 to 4 minutes. Set the shrimp aside as well to cool until you assemble the salad.

For the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, ginger and minced red chili. Set aside until right before serving.

To assemble:

In a large salad or mixing bowl, tip in the drained rice noodles along with the cucumber, mung bean sprouts, red pepper slices and carrots. Mix together (I use my hands for this — tongs work too). Add in the fresh herbs and mix again. Sprinkle the top with the frizzled shallots and roasted peanuts. Top with shrimp or other chosen protein. You can serve this family style in a large bowl or platter…or you can divide into portions. However you choose to serve it, don’t pour over the dressing until the very end so your noodles don’t get soggy. You can also put a small ramekin of the dressing on the side with each portion if you are serving it that way so guests can dress it to their liking. Serve with lime wedges on the side, as well.

Serves 4 as an entree salad.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for You can follow her on Twitter or email her at



Wed, Sep 5, 2012 : 10:55 p.m.

This our dinner tonight! The sweet red peppers, thai peppers, basil and cilantro comes from my garden. I sell at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market every Saturday...I have basil, thai basil, cilantro, sweet peppers and thai peppers for this recipe!

Bill Wilson

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.

Looks great... but it also appears to need a bit more sauce.

Jessica Webster

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

Wow, Bill! That's quite a compliment. I really appreciate it!

Bill Wilson

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Hi Jessica, Mine is an interest to make better food for my family, not to compete in comps, but I am a graduate of the Jack's Old South BBQ Cooking School, the Johnny Trigg and Rod Gray BBQ Cooking School, and the Paul Kirk Cooking School. Myron Mixon, Johnny Trigg, and Paul Kirk are all world champions, and Kirk is also a former student of Julia Child. I was always taught to seek out those who are very skilled when you're looking for guidance, hence the reason I never miss your columns; they are always good! A little less sauce is probably something that would benefit most of us. Thank you again for another great recipe!

Jessica Webster

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 7:15 p.m.

You caught me. I dressed the salad after I photographed it. Then I devoured it. I'm surprised you can tell!