The NYTimes sends me emails with recipes several time a week. A recent email was all about cold noodle dishes. As I read through them I got a hankering for cold noodles, but none of their dishes really suited me. I borrowed a few ideas from their cellophane noodle salad, but mine is based more on my Vietnamese summer rolls.
There are two problems with Vietnamese Summer Rolls (Gỏi cuốn). First, it is a big production to prep all of the ingredients and then carefully wrap up each roll. The second problem is that, while they are very good the first day, by the second day the wrappers have dried out and can hardly be chewed through. Jan’s solution, for day-old summer rolls, is to cut them open and eat the filling as a salad. I decided to solve both problems by simply making it as a salad in the first place.
Cellophane noodles are made with starch from mung bean, yam, potato, cassava or canna mixed with water and then dried into thin threads. You soak the noodles in hot water or boil them for a few minutes to reconstitute them. Depending on the starch used, they have a translucent or clear appearance when cooked.
Note: Cellophane noodles should not to be confused with the very similar appearing—when dry— rice vermicelli (Bánh hỏi). These noodles cook to an opaque white and have less of a “chew” than cellophane noodles.
Since I was not confined to what I could fit into a rice paper wrapper, I decided to add more vegetables to keep things interesting. Carrots, diakon, red bell peppers, red radishes, and sugar snap peas all added color, flavors, and textures. To top the salad, I decided to adapt the summer rolls peanut dipping sauce as a dressing. One idea I took from the original recipe was egg strips as a garnish.
A problem that I personally have with my recipe for summer rolls is that—while Jan and Eilene have no problem with them— either the fish sauce or the Thai basil gives me terrible gas pains. Wishing to avoid that outcome, I eliminated those ingredients. To make up for the loss of the umami of the fish sauce, I decided that I would use the shrimp to help make the dressing.
A while back, I discovered the trick of making a hot salsa to make use of the fond left by frying the fish for my fish tacos. I decided to use a similar technique for making the peanut sauce I was going to use as my salad dressing. After frying the shrimp, I added the garlic and other ingredients to the cooling pan to build the sauce.
After Dinner Note: Jan has decided that this dish should become one of our regular go to meals.
Karl’s Cellophane Noodle Salad with Shrimp
4 ounces mung bean vermicelli (2 portions)
3 cups napa cabbage, shredded
2 large green onions, separate uses
¼ cup baby carrots, sliced lengthwise
¼ cup diakon, sliced
¼ cup red bell pepper, large dice
¼ cup red radishes, sliced
¼ cup sugar snap peas, coarsely chopped
1 Persian cucumber, roll cut
1 egg, lightly scrambled
2 Tbs. oil, separate uses
16-20 medium shrimp
1 garlic cloves, crushed
½+ cup hot water
2 Tbs. creamy peanut butter
2 Tbs. Hoisin sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. chili garlic paste
½ tsp. honey or agave syrup
½ tsp. dark sesame oil
1. Soften the vermicelli in warm water for 20 minutes.
2. Prep all of the vegetables and set them in a large salad bowl.
Tip: Reserve some of the green onion greens for garnish.
3. Drain, cut the noodles slightly, and add them to the bowl.
4. Pat the shrimp day and sprinkle them with salt.
Tip: Let the shrimp air dry in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. You want them to fry, not steam.
5. Add oil to a medium pan, over a medium heat, and add the scrambled egg.
6. Swirl the pan so that the egg evenly coats the bottom of the pan.
7. Remove and cool the egg pancake.
8. Slice the egg into thin ribbons for the garnish and set aside.
9. Put the rest of the oil in a pan large enough to hold the shrimp in a single layer and heat it to shimmering over medium high heat.
10. Fry the shrimp for 1-2 minutes per side, until pink on both sides.
Note: I had left the shells on the shrimp while I fried them. While this made good use of the shells, they were very messy and hard to peel after they were cooked. I would recommend peeling the shrimp and freezing the shells for a later fish stock.
11. Transfer the shrimp to a plate to cool.
12. Remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic.
13. Cook the garlic for one minute in the cooling pan and then deglaze the pah with the boiling water.
14. Stir in the rest of the sauce ingredients into the pan.
Tip: You do not want your dressing to be too thick or too thin. If you feel your dressing is too thin, return the pan to the heat to reduce some of the liquid.
Note: Over a very short time, the peanut butter will absorb an amazing amount of liquid. If your dressing becomes too thick add some more hot water.
15. Put the dressing in a small serving bowl and chill for 10 minutes.
16. Add half the shrimp to the salad bowl and toss to mix the ingredients.
17. Transfer the salad to individual bowls and garnish with the egg strips, and remaining shrimp and green onion.
18. Serve the dressing on the side, so that your diners may add as much or as little as pleases them.