Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sassy Cellophane Noodle Salad

My uncle celebrated his 65th birthday last Friday (yes, on April Fool's Day!) and invited me to dinner with his clan at the very popular Palm Thai Restaurant in Hollywood. One of the dishes they ordered was Yum Woon Sen, which is a spicy cellophane noodle salad with ground pork, shrimp, various herbs, shallots and wood ear mushrooms drenched in a delicious dressing that was bursting with flavor. Since dinner that night, I've been craving Yum Woon Sen and decided to recreate my own version.

It just so happened that Gingham Girl and I were planning to do a luncheon at a friend's house a couple of days ago and I thought it would be a great time for me to experiment with this dish. And what an awesome lunch we had. GG made chicken curry (so delish!) that paired so well with my noodle salad. For dessert, we had coffee, fruit and GG's mango bars (Psst, GG! Time to post the recipes!)

A little plate of heaven

Clockwise from top left: GG's curry chicken, mango bars and sliced
strawberries, close-up of mango bar, cut Korean pears)

Anyway, on to the recipe! Given that I am aiming to go meatless these days, I decided to do an almost vegan version. Why almost? That's because I had to use fish sauce in the dressing. I know vegetarian fish sauce does exist but I didn't feel like trekking all the way to the Asian grocery. If you'd really prefer to go 100% vegan and can't find vegetarian fish sauce locally, you could try substituting with this. I've looked everywhere online for vegetarian fish sauce and it is hard as hell to find so that might be your best bet, albeit at a hefty price. (The $7.95 shipping alone is no joke.)

Clockwise from top center: Cooked cellophane noodles, chopped celery,
sliced shallots, chopped baby carrots, fish sauce and limes.


For the salad:
6 oz. pkg. of cellophane noodles, also called Bean Thread or Mung Bean noodle
1 cup chopped or shredded carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup peanuts, toasted (Spread them out on a baking pan and pop them into the toaster oven for a minute or two)
Handful of finely chopped mint leaves, cilantro or both (I used just mint because cilantro makes me gag.)

For the dressing:
3 limes
2/3 cup of fish sauce
2 pieces of garlic, minced
Sprinkle of chili pepper flakes or one fresh red chili, finely chopped
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. of lime zest
1 tbsp. vegetable oil


- To prepare the noodles, soak it in warm water for about half an hour then bring a pot of water to boil. Drain the softened noodles and blanch them in the boiling water for about a minute. They cook very quickly so keep an eye on them. When they turn transparent, drain them again and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

- To prepare the dressing, heat oil in a small pan, saute the garlic and chili together until slightly brown and the aromas are released. Remove from heat and set aside.

- Squeeze the juice of the limes into a mixing bowl. Then add the fish sauce, sugar, garlic, chili, and lime zest. Mix well with a whisk. At this point, you'd want to adjust the dressing to your liking since it's a combination of sweet, salty and sour. I personally like my dressing a tad sweeter but if you don't, you can try with just 1 tsp. of sugar then adjust accordingly. Whatever floats your boat!

- Finally, assemble the salad by mixing the noodles, veggies, herbs together in a large salad bowl. Drizzle the dressing over, give everything a good toss then top with crunchy toasted peanuts. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator if you prefer a cold salad.

This is an excellent salad for the coming warm months and it's so darn easy to make. Feel free to experiment with other veggies like red bell pepper, cucumber, snow peas, or lightly blanched green beans. Heck, I might even try it with some chopped canned pineapple next time. It's such a flexible recipe. Most importantly, it satisfies my Yum Woon Sen craving!

What Thai dish do YOU crave for? ~ Veggie Girl

Cellophane Noodles on FoodistaCellophane Noodles

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