Rice Noodle Salad Bowls with Grilled Lemongrass Chicken

Like rice paper rolls and banh mi sandwiches, rice-noodle salad bowls—often categorized at restaurants as rice vermicelli bowls or bun (“boon”, the name of the noodles in Vietnamese)—can feature many wonderful things, like grilled lemongrass chicken skewers. To make Vietnamese rice-noodle salad bowls, simply layer the ingredients in a bowl and let diners dress and mix up their own at the table. The vegetables provide refreshing crunch and herbal pungency, the noodles carry flavor, and the main feature and toppings are up to you. Grilled chicken skewers are the highlight here. Nuoc cham unites things with its Viet imprint.

Rice Noodle Salad Bowls with Grilled Lemongrass Chicken
Photo: Greg DuPree
Total Time:
1 hrs
Yield:
4

Ingredients

MARINADE

  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped lemongrass (from 1 medium stalk)

  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallot

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar or 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil (such as grapeseed)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as Three Crabs)

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic

  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

  • 3/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or black pepper

SALAD BOWLS

  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 (6- to 8-ounce) package uncooked rice stick noodles (maifun) or 1 (10- to 12-ounce) package uncooked rice capellini pasta or thin spaghetti

  • 4 cups loosely packed mixed baby lettuces or soft-leaf lettuce leaves (such as butter, Boston, or green leaf), thinly sliced

  • 1 (2-ounce) Persian cucumber, shaved into thin strips (optional)

  • 1/2 cup torn fresh cilantro, divided

  • 1/2 cup torn fresh mint, basil, and/or dill, divided

  • Canola oil or other neutral oil (such as grapeseed), for grilling

  • 2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup crispy fried shallots or onions (optional)

  • 1 cup Nuoc Cham

Directions

Make the marinade

  1. Place all marinade ingredients in a mini food processor; pulse until mixture resembles a slightly coarse puree, about 10 times. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Make the salad bowls

  1. Cut each chicken thigh into 3- x 1-inch strips. (Butterfly any thicker chicken thighs first, if needed.) Add chicken strips to marinade in bowl; massage marinade into chicken until coated. Thread chicken evenly onto 10 (5-inch) skewers. Give skewered chicken a gentle squeeze to ensure meat hugs skewers. Place skewers on a large plate; discard remaining marinade. Cover skewers; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  2. Meanwhile, boil noodles in a pot of water until chewy-tender (cook time will depend on brand). Drain and rinse under cold water; drain again. Divide lettuce and, if desired, bean sprouts and cucumber among 4 large serving bowls. Sprinkle bowls evenly with 6 tablespoons cilantro and 6 tablespoons mint, basil, and/or dill. Top evenly with noodles.

  3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Lightly brush skewered chicken with oil. Place skewers on hot grill pan; cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is slightly charred and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes.

  4. Divide chicken among noodle bowls (either on or off skewers). Top bowls evenly with peanuts; fried shallots, if desired; remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro; and remaining 2 tablespoons mint, basil, and/or dill. Place nuoc cham in a small bowl; let diners dress and toss their own bowls.

Make Ahead

Uncooked chicken skewers can be covered and refrigerated overnight; let come to room temperature before grilling. Noodles can be cooked, covered, and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days; sprinkle with water, and microwave on high for about 1 minute to soften and refresh.

Notes

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: To properly cook meat on a grill pan or grill, you will need skewers. With 5-inch skewers, you’ll fill about 10 of them; with 10-inch ones, you’ll need 4 or 5. If using wooden skewers and cooking over a live fire, soak the skewers in hot water for 20 minutes before using.

NOTE: Fried onions (like those used for Thanksgiving casseroles) are a great supermarket sub for fried shallots. They enrich the bowls but are totally optional.

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