Via Orangette, Adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s Splendid Table Weeknight Kitchen e-mail newsletter
This salad, in short, is pimpin'. You can probably use chicken or tofu, if you don't like shrimp. I even made it with nothing but the veggies and noodles once, but it wasn't nearly as fun. For herbs, you can use cilantro, mint, or basil, either one or a combo of whichever you love best. You can probably also throw in other veggies, like edamame, etc. I like it the way it is though, with the spring onions and carrots and cabbage.
1 pound thin rice noodles (roughly the thickness of linguine)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, to taste (or I actually use 4 heaping tablespoons)
2 tsp. (your discretion how hot you want it) of Red Chili Flakes
1/2 a Napa cabbage of the leaves, washed and thinly sliced
8 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded or julienned
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mint or basil or a combo, coarsely chopped
3/4 -1 pound of shrimp, sauteed with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice
1 cup cashews, salted, and toasted if desired
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender but not mushy. Drain the noodles into a colander, rinse with cold water, and then place them in a large bowl.
Place the garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to mince. Add the fish sauce, water, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and chilies, and purée them together. [The mixture will get quite frothy.] Taste, and if necessary, add more chile and adjust the sweet/tart balance. Pour the dressing into a serving bowl, and set it on the dining table. (*Note, if you are out of rice vinegar, I've cheated and used white wine vinegar. Nothing was destroyed, so go for it!)
Toss the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl, top with the shrimp and cashews. Traditionally, this salad is eaten in individual bowls, so place some of the cold rice noodles at the bottom, the salad and shrimp on top, and pour as much dressing you want on your own portion. Be warned--it's super addictive.