Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thai cold rice noodle salad with chicken, lime and peanut sauce

It has been really hot here.

The "36°C at 7:00pm in the evening" kind of hot.
The "I-feel-like-I-peed-in-my-pants-after-biking-home" kind of hot.
The "only wear very dark or very light tops to work" kind of hot.
The "my-thighs-just-got-stuck-to-the-waiting-room-faux-leather-sofa" kind of hot.
The "I-keep-finding-my-son's-discarded-diapers-around-the-house" kind of hot. (Yes, we tried potty training when that started but realized very quickly it was purely a desire to cool off his Netherlands, not a sign of wanting to use a toilet).
The "opening-the-fridge-just-to-cool-off" kind of hot.

Like many apartments in old Italian buildings, we do not have air conditioning. With a just-turned three-year old who loves looking out of the window, we pretty much have to keep either our windows or shutters closed to avoid accidents, unless we are in the room. We did buy universal window catches to protect our children, but it seems that our seemingly standard 1920s window frames somehow do not fit the definition of "universal". Last but not least, I don't think our landlady would appreciate us screwing white plastic guards into her grandmother's beautiful wood pannelled window frames. So that sort of rules out the possibility of exploiting our apartment's double exposure and the lovely current it creates.

As a result, we have been drinking a lot of water. We have been lying around in our underwear loungewear like dead leaves. The kids have been splashing around a lot in the bathtub. Luckily we have ceiling fans, although the pretty period molded ceilings are so high, we only catch a slight breeze at top speed.

So now you know why my most recent pinning has involved lots of salads, ice cream recipes and South East Asian influences recipes. Since I feel the need for fresh, cool and crunchy ingredients, a lot of those recipes will be coming your way in the near future.

Today's recipe is courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, who did the hard work of converting complicated, laborious restaurant food into something more accessible for home cooks. The preparation is actually much simpler than the list of ingredients and variety of steps would lead you to think, so read through it before you decide it is too much work. It really isn't, and if I say so you know it is true since I am the queen of simple and fast family-friendly recipes. The most laborious part was squeezing the limes (I used 8). Feel free to play around with the vegetables you prefer, just keep it crunchy.

Lemme just make sure it is al dente!

Ingredients (4-6 servings)
meat from 6 skinless chicken thighs
8 oz. rice noodles (one large pack)
2 medium sized cucumbers, quartered and sliced (I peeled them)
2 medium sized carrots, cut into slivers or julienne
3 or 4 scallions or spring onion,s chopped
small bunch of fresh mint, coarsely chopped
small bunch of coriander, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Lime wedges (as garnish)

Peanut sauce
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
9 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp soy sauce
thumb-sized chunk ginger, peeled and finely grated
6 tablespoons unsalted peanut butter (I used organic)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
A pinch of cayenne or finely chopped chiles (optional, I skipped it because of the kids)

Dipping sauce
6 tbsp Asian fish sauce
6 tbsp brown sugar
12 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove (or more), finely grated/minced
Small chiles, thinly sliced (optional, I skipped these because of the kids)
The first step is making the two sauces because you will be using them to marinate the chicken. Start by squeezing the limes, the most time consuming active part.
To make the peanut sauce, you can blend all the ingredients with a food processor but I simply mixed them by hand and finely grated the ginger. The end result should be a pretty thick sauce. Set aside.
To make the dipping sauce, mix the ingredients in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved, letting it sit for a little while.
Both sauces can be stored in the fridge if you have leftovers. I did and used them on practically everything I could get my hands on until they lasted.

The second step is marinating the chicken. Whisk together about 1/2 of the dipping sauce and 1/3 of the peanut sauce and pour into a shallow dish. Add the chicken, cut into large pieces and toss and coat, letting it marinate for a while. I let it sit for a few hours in the fridge.

When the chicken has marinated, you can sear it in a pan or grill it until it is golden brown and cooked through. Let it cool and cut it into bite-size chunks.
While you are waiting you can cook the noodles following the instructions on the package. They usually tell you to put the dry noodles in a bowl and pour over boiling water and then let them sit for a few minutes, until soft enough. When they are ready, cool them off under running water and drain them in a colander.

Now you can decide whether to serve individually, letting your guests prepare their own bowls, or serve on a platter. I did a little of both, tossing the vegetables with a tablesppon dipping sauce as suggested and mixed the noddles with 2 tbsp of peanut sauce and 2tbsp of dipping sauce and divided it into bowls. I topped the noodles off with some vegetables, chicken and herbs and peanuts. I then put the garnish, lime wedges, sauces and leftover chicken and vegetables on the center of the table with spoons so everybody could help themselves. Want more sauce? Grab more sauce. Like the crunchiness from the peanuts more than from the vegetables? Help yourself.  My kids were not wild about the "funny green leaves" (mint, coriander, spring onions) so the share their share was more than enough, while I drowned my noddles in the fresh aromatic herbs. To each his/her own.


  1. Hahahaha I would have drowned my noodles in the aromatic herbs too! hehe Yummy recipe! I just read your comment on my chicken salad and I HAD to come by and see this! It looks great! Perfect for summer. My parents tell me it is very hot and humid... they don't have A/C either, I guess that's the norm in Italy. Keep as cool as possible and have some ice cream for me... it's too cold down here! :-) Baci!

    1. Your parents are right! I will make a point of having a big ice cream... just for you of course!

  2. Great recipe! It is super hot here too, so this salad will be a welcome break from the usual traditional Lebanese dishes we make!

  3. Even though it is really cold here, this recipe got my mouth watering! Love those fresh flavours and crunchy texture. shall we do some weather swapping? A bit of our cold for a bit for your heat? :)

    1. You have no idea how jealous I get in the winter reading your posts... total revenge! hehe

  4. I love this kind of food - so beautifully fresh. The weather in the UK is atrocious but I know how boiling it is in Italy because my parents are at their house in Tuscany at the moment and keep reporting back (and making me jealous!). You may be drowning in the heat but I'd prefer that to torrential rain :-)

    1. Oh, I would be very content in the heat in a vacation house in Tuscany... and yes, I do not love rain, unless it is a refreshing storm like last night's.

  5. What a funny post. I always love reading your posts. It has been pretty cool here in France with the rain coming on and off since the beginning of summer. But no matter the weather, I love salads like this, love the flavors. I do really need ideas like this for my summer meals.

    1. It was actually pretty cool here, unseasonally cool, until recently so can't complain. And though it seems contradictory after this post, I am usually not a complainer about weather, summer is hot, winter is cold, we need rain to survive, so why make a big deal, right?

  6. One of the only things I miss about being a kid: The bathtub instantly becomes a pool. (Great recipe! It's all no-cook up in this household lately, too. Lots of fresh-corn salads... and pickled blueberries.)

    1. So true! And those blueberries, don't even get me started!

  7. You've got me remembering exactly the weather we experienced traveling in Italy three years ago. Melting, soggy, wiltedness! But we still loved it there :) This cold noodle salad sounds perfect for today -- not because it's hot, but because it looks and sounds refreshing after the heavy food we ate for the holiday. Yummy!

  8. Hi Kellypea! So true, Italy is beautiful and when on vacation everything is easier and we are more patient with circumstances. Glad you liked the recipe and that visited.

  9. It's so hot that I've had zero appetite lately. All I want to do is eat ice cream. I had ice cream for dinner today! This noodle salad would have worked nicely too, though. :-)

  10. What a beautiful salad! I bet is really tasty too!

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  12. This is one of my families favourite salads in summer. Its refreshing, filling and so easy.


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