head in the clouds February 6, 2012

I’ve spent three weeks in what seems like every possible kitchen scenario possible – our spacious food styling-friendly set up with the six burner Vulcan range, a posh house location in downtown Atlanta , and a rolling mobile kitchen that was lit like a horror movie but was quite the godsend. It’s been some crazy, fun times and it’s certainly pushed me in many ways.

I’ve grown. Branched out. Explored.

In the midst of many hours of prepping and chopping, my mind has been wandering. Thinking of our upcoming travel. Staying up way past my bedtime looking at photos, the trips we can take once we’re there. I’ve had my head in the clouds. Feeling a bit overwhelmed while at the same time on the edge of my seat. A plane seat that I’ll be in for 20+ hours.

When my schedule has me stressed out and exhausted, I always turn to spicy food and Asian soups for comfort and soothing. Now, with a trip across the globe no longer a pipe dream, the thought of eating those foods there…being immersed in the culture…letting sounds and smells guide me…has me a little gobsmacked.

Vietnam. Really.

I never thought that wanderlust would become a reality.

Now that our work schedules have been sorted, Mike and I begin finalizing all the details for our trip. We are still a ways away from leaving but we know we’ll be starting in Hanoi and taking some short trips from there. I’ll, of course, be on the food adventure of a lifetime (my lifetime, at least) and will have camera firmly in hand. I’ll be taking you along with me as much as I can, fear not.

As if to reinforce the place I’ve been in my head, the wonderful craft service folks on my shoot two weeks ago made an insanely delicious Asian inspired spread. On the menu was a spring roll salad that reminded me a great deal of Vietnamese bún, one of my most favorite dishes. My version here is just a deconstructed summer roll – all of the fillings without the rice paper wrapper. All of my favorite comfort food elements – noodles, Asian flavors, spicy heat – in one bowl.

Vietnamese Summer Roll Salad – serves 4 as an entree salad

The kicker to this salad is the dressing. There are lots of Asian inspired noodle salads out there but this packs a punch from the Thai red chilies. If they’re not available where you are, you can substitute a blob of Sriracha in a pinch – just taste as you go. I love summer rolls with shrimp in them so that’s what I topped this salad with – you can also do slices of Asian spiced pork or cubes of baked tofu. The frizzled shallots add a warm, bitterness to the salad so try and include them if at all possible.

  • 1/2 of a 16 ounces package of Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh shrimp (36-40 size), shelled and de-veined. you can season these lightly with salt and pepper, if you’d like.
  • 1 medium cucumber – peeled and julienned
  • 1 large carrot – peeled and cut into long strips with a vegetable peeler or julienned
  • 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
  • 1/3 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil or Thai basil leaves, larger stems removed
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, tough stems removed
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, tough stems removed
  • 2 medium Thai red chilies, minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger or ginger juice
  • 1 tbsp. honey or light agave nectar
  • 6 tbsp. fish sauce – if you are straight up vegetarian, substitute salt or soy sauce for this. just adjust and taste as you go
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • lime wedges, as garnish

For the salad:

– Bring a large soup/stockpot of water to a boil. Add in the rice vermicelli noodles and cook until al dente – this should take 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside in a colander until you’re ready to assemble the salad.

– In a small skillet, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Stir in the sliced shallot and fry until dark, golden brown. Scoop them out of the pan and onto a paper towl to drain. Wipe out the skillet and, adding just a little bit of oil, cook the shrimp until cooked through – 3 to 4 minutes. Set them aside as well to cool until you assemble the salad.

For the dressing:

– In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, ginger/ginger juice and minced red chili. Set aside until right before serving.

To assemble:

– In a large salad or mixing bowl, tip in the drained rice noodles along with the cucumber, mung bean sprouts and carrots. Mix together (I use my hands for this – tongs work too). Add in the fresh herbs and mix again. Sprinkle the top with the frizzled shallots and roasted peanuts. Top with shrimp or other chosen protein. You can serve this family style in a large bowl or platter…or you can divide into portions. However you choose to serve it, don’t pour over the dressing until the very end so your noodles don’t get soggy. You can also put a small ramekin of the dressing on the side with each portion if you are serving it that way so guests can dress it to their liking. Serve with lime wedges on the side, as well.


JulieD Feb 6, 2012 09:02 pm

I’m so excited for you, have fun!!!!! :) this salad looks beautiful!

Paula- bell'alimento Feb 6, 2012 10:02 pm

Your pictures just speak to me. So simple. So stunning! I can’t wait to go with on your trip to Vietnam. It’s going to be epic xoxo So happy for y’all!

katie Feb 6, 2012 10:02 pm

Wow… your pictures truly speak a thousand words! Stunning as always. Congrats on your upcoming trip–I cannot wait to see the photos you capture.

Sarah B. Feb 7, 2012 12:02 am

What a beautiful post to return with! I’m finding myself connecting with these flavors, plating, and recipe here, so so stunning! And cheers to that eating journey you’re about to get into, all of this, very exciting lady T! xo

joy Feb 7, 2012 12:02 am

this reminds me of home. looks delicious!

Katka Feb 7, 2012 03:02 am

Vietnam is a great place, for me with the best food in South East Asia. I currently live here, in Saigon. I haven’t been up north yet, but they say the food is great there. However, the best food is in Hoi An and it’s also the most charming place in Vietnam, you should definitely visit! In case you want to do some Vietnamese cooking classes, I can recommend you one amazing in Hoi An, just drop me a line and I’ll send you the website. Have a great time in Vietnam and enjoy all the amazing food here :)

Katka Feb 7, 2012 03:02 am

Don’t skip Hoi An! The food is the best there from the whole Vietnam. If you would like to attend a cooking class in Hoi An, I know one amazing one, I can send you the website. I currently live in Saigon and for me Vietnamese food is the best on in the region. However, be careful about people ripping you off (especially taxi fares) and bag snatchers. Enjoy your trip, Vietnam is a beautiful country to visit :)

Kulsum at JourneyKitchen Feb 7, 2012 03:02 am

I’m excited for your trip and look forward to the pictures! The roll looks fabulous and colorful after the dark and brown winter food I’m having lately.

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite Feb 7, 2012 06:02 am

So so excited for you and cannot wait to see the pictures and hear about your trip!

Melissa | Dash of East Feb 7, 2012 06:02 am

Beautiful post and photos! It’s making me hungry (at 6:44am) just looking at them.

How exciting about your trip to Vietnam! It’s really going to be a trip of a lifetime. I can’t wait to see and hear all about it.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar Feb 7, 2012 06:02 am

This is absolutely beautiful!

Amy Feb 7, 2012 07:02 am

I could totally eat this three times a day.

Lovely photos as always!

Staci Feb 7, 2012 09:02 am

This looks delicious! Thank you for posting. I’m not the greatest cook — do you recommend some places in ATL where one can find some of these tasty sounding Vietnamese dishes? Thanks!

Suzi Feb 7, 2012 06:02 pm

This looks killer. I love all those flavors together. Delicious! Your trip sounds so exciting, how lovely for you.

Lana @ Never Enough Thyme Feb 7, 2012 07:02 pm

What an exciting trip! Can’t wait to follow along with your via your sure-to-be gorgeous photography.

Fastfeasts Feb 7, 2012 08:02 pm

If you haven’t let yet…I have been twice and ready to Bo back again for the food….in hanoi you can google Guan An Ngon..Fun, fun,….they also have restaurant in Saigon same name. …..hoi an does have ..Red bridge cooking school take boat and can buy ticket on line before you go…also have evening there at hai scout…both run by same people…love vietnamese and the food…and the crepes with shrimp,por,bean sprouts…you are welcome tocall if you like 770-394-9140. Aim ready to go back again. Love the food and the people,,have fun!!!!!!! Lillie b hope you got all the info

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com Feb 8, 2012 02:02 am

Have fun on your trip!

And this salad reminds me of a delicious bowl of hot pho in cold winter. YUM!!!

kale @ tastes good to me! Feb 8, 2012 02:02 am

Beautiful photos as always. Love thai chili!

Vicky Feb 8, 2012 09:02 am

this looks and sounds absolutely delicious. I love summer rolls so I’m sure I would love this too. Have a great trip!

stephchows Feb 9, 2012 03:02 pm

MMM this sounds like the perfect thing to have for dinner tonight! And it’s beautiful!

Anna @ the shady pine Feb 9, 2012 11:02 pm

Hi there, I am a first time visitor here and just wanted to say that I adore Viatnamese cuisine and this salad looks so vibrant and delicious. Looking forward to reading more posts about Vietnam and their local cuisine.

isabelle Feb 10, 2012 06:02 pm

looks so great! i particularly like the shot of the peppers. :)

Mairi @ Toast Feb 11, 2012 10:02 pm

I seem to be in the midst of a bit of Asian, Vietnamese phase at the moment. Just loving all the flavours, so fresh & so bright. I will definitely be adding this one to the repertoire :) And I look forward to reading all about your trip.

Elva @ Gluten Free Feb 18, 2012 01:02 am

You have great imagination!!!! But you didn’t envisage that I m going to heist your tips and ingredients..lol ..Soon would let you know how it goes. Thumbs up for you :)

Magic of Spice Feb 18, 2012 06:02 pm

Wow, that is quite an adventure you have coming! This is a wonderful recipe…lovely and conforting!

[…] of our favorite bloggers, Running with Tweezers created a refreshing and savory Vietnamese summer salad roll that would as a great appetizer at a dinner […]

[…] Recipe Adapted From Running With Tweezers  […]

Brooklyn Mar 4, 2012 01:03 am

Fabulous recipe. I made this, and it was, of course, delicious.

GadgetGeek Mar 8, 2012 12:03 pm

Great pictures, super recipe. You do the things I wish I had done when I look at my pictures. Thanks for letting us see.

[…] Recipe Adapted From Running With Tweezers  […]

[…] Recipe Adapted From Running With Tweezers  […]


[…] of our favorite bloggers, Running with Tweezers created a refreshing and savory Vietnamese summer salad roll that would as a great appetizer at a dinner […]

[…] Recipe & photo credit to Running With Tweezers […]