A fresh and bright Thai noodle salad with lots of coriander, mint, lime, chilli, peanuts and sweet juicy grilled pineapple.
The flavours of Thailand are some of my favourites. With all the fresh herbs and hot spice, it's one cuisine I don't think I'll ever grow tired of. This salad pulls in lots of the usual suspects and is quite a crowd pleaser.
It's the middle of winter here in New Zealand and the weather has been downright depressing. The rain hasn't stopped lately, it's been cold, grey and miserable. I work from home so when the weather is like this I barely leave the house for days on end. It's horrible and frankly it gets a bit depressing.
So pineapple is definitely not in season here right now! As an imported tropical fruit that isn't grown in New Zealand, it's really never in season though so winter's as good a time as any. Juicy sweet pineapple will cheer me up any day of the week, but grilled and added to a brightly dressed salad with lots of mint and coriander it can definitely wake my tastebuds up and turn my mood around.
Thai rice stick noodles
I used thin Thai rice stick noodles for this salad. You could also use the wider version that's used in pad thai, or you could use vermicelli if that's what you have on hand.
The packet instructions indicate soaking rice stick noodles before stir frying or adding them to a soup, but as I wasn't doing either of those things I didn't bother with the soaking and instead simmered them for a few minutes until they were just cooked. For my noodles that took about three minutes. Yours might be different, so just keep an eye on them and taste often so that you don't overcook them. A quick drain and refresh under cold water and they're good to go.
To my noodles, I added julienned carrot - I used a Japanese mandoline to do that, or you could use a spiralizer, cut the carrot finely with a knife or even grate it. To mix up the textures, I added ribbons of cucumber done with a vegetable peeler.
Use the veges and tools that suit you, it won't change the taste - just the texture and appearance of the salad. You could also throw in a handful of bean sprouts, or sugar snap peas if you have them.
Finish it off with Thai flavours
Then in went handfuls of coriander (cilantro) and mint in about a 2:1 ratio, finely chopped peanuts and green chilli, sesame seeds and a tangy lime dressing. I tossed some of the pineapple through the noodle salad and reserved a few pieces to put on top, along with more coriander, chilli and peanuts. If you're not into hot food, use less chilli or leave it out altogether.
This noodle salad is great as a light meal by itself, and it's also great with grilled or fried tofu, tempeh, egg or another protein of your choice - depending on your dietary preferences.
For the dressing:
- ¼ cup lime juice freshly squeezed
- 2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar or other sweetener of your choice
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic crushed or finely grated
- 1 tbsp ginger finely grated
For the salad:
- Half a pack of thin rice stick noodles (approximately 180g)
- 4-5 thick slices of fresh pineapple skin trimmed
- 1 telegraph cucumber
- 1 carrot
- 1 cup coriander approximate, roughly choppped, cilantro
- ½ cup mint approximate, roughly chopped
- ½ cup roasted peanuts finely chopped
- 2-3 green chillis finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds (I used a mixture of black and white)
For the dressing:
- Put all dressing ingredients into a small jar or other sealed container, shake to mix.
- Taste and adjust with more lime, tamari or sweetener to suit your taste. You want the dressing to be pretty strong, as the flavours will be more subtle once mixed with the salad ingredients.
For the salad:
- Preheat a griddle pan (or your barbecue/grill) to very hot.
- Cook whole pineapple slices for a few minutes on each side, until they have char marks.
- Remove from heat, cool for a few minutes and cut into even sized chunks. I left the core in, as cooking the pineapple softens it.
- Cook your rice stick noodles in boiling water for a few minutes, until just cooked. Keep an eye on them and taste often - you don't want to overcook them.
- Drain noodles and refresh under cold water, drain again then add to a large mixing bowl.
- Peel and shred or grate your carrot, add to the bowl.
- Use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons with your cucumber, add to the bowl.
- Add most of the chopped herbs, peanuts, chilli and sesame seeds.
- Add most of the grilled pineapple.
- Add dressing, then use your hands to toss everything together, ensuring the noodles are well coated with dressing and everything is evenly mixed.
- Arrange on a serving platter or salad bowl and garnish with extra pineapple, herbs, peanuts, chilli and sesame seeds.
- This salad is best served fresh (or within an hour or so) as the noodles will soak up the dressing and dry out over time.