Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad
This salad is ripe for adaptations and a great way to use up leftovers and odds and ends of proteins and vegetables.
Serves 2-3 as a dinner salad

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, plus more to taste
6 tablespoons water, plus more to taste
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 jalepeño chile, minced

For the salad:
8 ounces rice noodles (the flat linguine like variety)
5 napa cabbage leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 cucumber, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 handful chopped fresh herbs, preferably a combination of basil, cilantro, and mint
8 ounces cooked chicken or beef or pork or shrimp or tofu, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1. To prepare the dressing, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of the water, the garlic, and the chile. Whisk well. Taste: if it’s too pungent, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If you’d like more sweetness, add more brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time. You’re going to be putting this dressing on unsalted vegetables and noodles: you want the dressing to have a lot of flavor, but it shouldn’t knock you over. Pour into a serving bowl. (Covered and refrigerated, the dressing will keep for 3 days to a week.)

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender. do not overcook or they will be mushy. Immediately drain the noodles into a colander, and rinse them well with cold water.

3. Divide the noodles between two or three good-sized bowls, depending on the number of diners, and top with the vegetables, herbs, and meat. Scatter the peanuts on top. Allow each person to spoon on dressing to taste. Toss well, and eat. (Alternatively, you can present this salad family-style: Toss the vegetables, herbs, and noodles in a mixing bowl and then mound them on a serving platter. Arrange the meat over the noodles, and top with peanuts. Each diner can scoop their own portion from the platter and dress it as they see fit.)

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