Today was our first really warm day, and this tangy Cellophane Noodle Salad was perfect, crunchy and refreshing. It's been a fish sauce kind of week, and I've enjoyed several recipes calling for it. Although it has fish sauce in it, there's no fishy taste (cross my heart). This salad also contains a little ground pork, but it doesn't taste meaty. In fact, you could leave out the pork altogether and add more thinly sliced veggies, and it would taste just as good. The backbone of the salad is the cellophane noodles, which are also called bean threads. You soak them in warm water for 30 minutes as you prepare the other ingredients for the salad, then toss everything together. If you've never had cellophane noodles you should treat yourself to them. They're so much fun to eat, and have a slightly crunchy texture that I enjoy very much. Kids usually like them too. And they are pasta, so I submit this to Presto Pasta Night, which was created by the lovely Ruth at Once Upon A Feast . She should have the Roundup of the other pasta bloggers today.
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 lemongrass stalk
1 green jalapeño chili (optional)
1/4 lb. ground pork (You could use ground turkey, or go meatless altogether)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
3 oz. cellophane noodles, soaked in warm water
for 30 minutes
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. water
3 Tbs. canola oil
1 cup peeled, seeded and julienned cucumber
1/2 cup seeded and julienned red bell pepper
3 shallots, thinly sliced
8 red-leaf lettuce leaves
2 Tbs. minced unsalted peanuts, toasted
1 Tbs. shredded fresh mint
1 Tbs. shredded fresh cilantro
Soak the mushrooms in warm water to cover for 30 minutes. Drain, remove and discard the stems and cut the caps into fine julienne. Using only the pale bottom part of the lemongrass stalk, peel away the tough outer layer, smash the stalk with the side of a chefs knife and thinly slice on the diagonal. Seed the chili, then thinly slice into rings. Set the vegetables aside.
Season the pork with the salt and white pepper. In a sauté pan over high heat, sauté the pork until it turns opaque and is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pork to a sieve and let drain, then place in a large bowl. Drain the noodles and add to the bowl with the pork.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and water. Heat until the sugar has dissolved, pour the mixture into a bowl and gradually whisk in the canola oil.
Add the cucumber, bell pepper, shallots, mushrooms, lemongrass and chili to the pork and noodles and toss to mix. Add the lime-juice mixture and toss to coat evenly.
Line a platter with the lettuce leaves. Top with the pork and noodles, garnish with the peanuts, mint and cilantro and serve. Serves 4.