Cold Rice Noodles With Chicken

by Anne Bennett on June 25, 2012

A staple in my kitchen when our kids were young was Jade Sichuan Peanut Sauce, which I bought regularly and in bulk at Williams Sonoma.

The slightly sweet, mildly spicy sauce became a ubiquitous addition to nearly everything we ate. We made Boboli pizza with peanut sauce; rice with peanut sauce; Chinese-style pasta with peanut sauce.

When Corbett began slathering it on burritos, creating a fusion dish that he said you just had to try to appreciate, I reached my limit and stopped buying the stuff.

The following recipe hails from the award-winning blog Smitten Kitchen and calls for two sauces, a spicy dipping sauce and a peanut dressing, which, alas, you have to make rather than shake out of a bottle. You may have to seek out a few ingredients at an Asian market or the Asian section of a well-stocked supermarket, but  it’s time and money well spent.

Son-in-law Brendan took this photo just before he dug in!

The combination of flavors in this dish is amazing: complex and spicy/sweet but also very refreshing. You’ll crave this for lunch the next day.

Deb at Smitten Kitchen relates that the original recipe, which appeared in the New York Times, included a third sauce which she wisely concluded was one step too many, so she whittled down the process to two sauces with no loss of flavor.

Note to those who are olfactory-challenged: this recipe calls for Vietnamese fish sauce, a pungent (read “highly smelly”) sauce that contributes an essential flavor to the dipping sauce. When you first open the bottle, I’m warning you, you’ll be very suspicious that anything good could come from its contents. You’ll have to trust me on this one. It works, deftly delivering the fifth of the taste senses, umami. (Google it.)

If I’ve scared you off, there’s always the bottle of Jade!

Dipping Sauce

6 T. Asian fish sauce*
6 T. brown sugar
12 T. lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced or to taste

Peanut Dressing

3 T. Asian fish sauce
3 T. rice vinegar*
9 T. lime juice
3 T. soy sauce
1 one-and-a-half inch chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced
6 T. creamy peanut butter
1 T. toasted sesame oil*
Pinch of cayenne

Chicken and noodle salad

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6)
8 oz. dried Asian rice noodles (vermicelli style)*
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin julienne
4 scallions, slivered
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Fresh basil, cilantro or mint leaves for garnish

*I found all of these ingredients in the Asian section of a large supermarket.

To make the dipping sauce: whisk all ingredients together in a bowl, making sure to dissolve sugar. Let sit to ripen for 15 minutes.

To make the peanut dressing: In a food processor puree all ingredients until smooth, about the thickness of heavy cream. Pour into a serving bowl.

To marinate the chicken: Stir together 1/2 of the dipping sauce and 1/3 of the peanut dressing (you can approximate) in the bottom of a dish. Add chicken and toss to coat. Allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

To cook the noodles: bring a large pot of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Add the noodles and soak for 7 to 8 minutes. Drain when noodles are al dente and cool under running water. Fluff and allow to thoroughly drain in colander.

Grill chicken until nicely browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let cool slightly and chop roughly into 3/4-inch pieces.

Now, you can assemble the salad in various ways: you can place everything on a large serving platter with neat piles of vegetables, chicken and noodles and let people assemble their own bowls, or you can assemble each bowl like the one above, in which case you do the following:

Toss vegetables with 1 T. dipping sauce in a small bowl. Divide the cooked noodles among 4 to 6 bowls. Top each bowl equally with vegetable mixture and chopped chicken. Drizzle each bowl with about 2 t. each of the sauces. Top with the herbs, peanuts and scallions and serve with the additional sauces on the side.

Serves 4 to 6. At our house it generously served 4 with leftovers for Champ and me the next night.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Kamm June 26, 2012 at 6:28 am

I’m totally going to make this. Raffa’s boyfriend is Vietnamese. He was quite surprised at my bottle of fish sauce in the fridge. Maybe I’ll make this for him….hahahaha!

Anne June 26, 2012 at 6:41 am

Amy, if you’ve got the fish sauce you’re set to go. Hell, you don’t even need to refrigerate the fish sauce. What microorganism would grow in that stuff?

Amy Kamm July 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm

It was delicious!!!

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