This Thai Rainbow Noodle Salad grabs you with its veritable rainbow of colours, and holds you with its hot, sour, salty, sweet taste. Cool and crunchy, too. Make more of the loose, peanutty sauce than you need to drizzle on any likely dish over the next few days.
Be warned: you will want to make this everyday throughout the summer. Not that this is a bad thing, but, you know, variety.
If you do wish to make this everyday, it is easy to change-up this colour-saturated salad with other nutritious, radiant ingredients. Sour, sweet, salty and hot, this Thai-inspired salad is a zesty tangle of crunchy, vibrant vegetables, noodles, herbs and nuts. So, even if you just slightly tweaked it you would be getting the benefit of some powerful phytochemical synergies. Just keep it largely whole food and you really can’t go wrong. I’ll give some pointers further on down.
And the dressing – the dressing! – is nigh on drinkable. Although it is peanut-based, in keeping with tradition, can I be slightly heretical and announce that I prefer it with sunbutter and roasted sunflower seeds? Either way, it is glorious. Dredge leftover sauce with bought or homemade summer rolls, or even cassava chips.
And, this is THE summer recipe to make with a spiraliser. You know, that thing cluttering up the back of the pantry cupboard? Go get it out and give it a rinse cos we are going to be making some noodles. No spiraliser? No matter. Just grab your chef’s knife and slice up your vegetables as thin as you dare.
What’s in this Thai Rainbow Noodle Salad?
I’ll start with the ‘drinkable’ dressing. 😉 Ooh, you are going to love this.
Bird’s eye chillies (as much as you like), garlic (ditto), limes, a touch of toasted sesame oil, peanut butter AND peanuts, soy sauce (or coconut aminos), a little oil and a smidge of date syrup, brown sugar, maple or honey – your call. You bung it in a blender and pulse to leave just a soupçon of crunch. If you are feeling it, add a thumb of ginger for extra zest. This you can make ahead and keep in the fridge.
For the salad itself:
Courgette (zucchini) noodles
Actual noodles (if you want, and I always do) – white or brown rice, thick or thin
Red cabbage, cut into the thinnest of slivers (easiest on a mandoline but I only trust myself with a knife)
Sugar snap peas (raw and sliced) or green beans, cooked just until crisp-tender then cooled in ice water
Thai basil, or, in an absolute pinch, ordinary basil. It doesn’t have the same aniseedy taste that is pretty essential, but it will taste great. If using regular basil maybe add in some coriander leaf/ cilantro as well. Or some mint. I like the pure taste of Thai basil on its own for this so I didn’t include the other usual suspects. You do you though. 🙂
Red onion, shallots, or spring onions if you wish.
and lastly, this is the kicker perhaps – cherry tomatoes. I pinched this idea, and the rough bones of this recipe, from Meera Sodha’s recipe in her recent Guardian column. You cut and smash the tomatoes and saturate it in the dressing, absorbing its intense flavours. I forgot to cut, but I did smash, making a bit of a mess of my apron (thank God for the apron) and countertop. Do the cutting and smashing to avoid seeds and juice firing in all directions.
So, you see, this isn’t a hugely complicated dish. It takes a bit of time and patience to slice up the veg, but once you taste the salad, like childbirth, you forget the labour.
In the US and further south, why not add crispy batons or shreds of juicy, crisp jicama? We don’t get this vegetable in the UK but I do love it a lot. A fibre-rich, root vegetable, native to Mexico, it is mild and usually eaten raw with just a little lime juice and chilli powder to enliven it.
Peppers of any hue. Sliced and raw, these are a colourful, nutritious addition.
Fruit! I make a Tangy and Twisted Thai Fruit Salad with a different – non-nutty – dressing that you may want to try. But feel free to add slivers of sweet mango, (green) papaya or pineapple to this veg-centric salad if you feel so moved.
Avocado! For healthy fats and a contrasting creamy texture, there is nothing like the good old avo.
Swede, beets, rutabaga, salsify – sturdy root vegetables make this salad completely do-able in the depths of winter.
More protein: I added sesame-baked tofu to ours (see it in the mixing bowl below), but sizzle up prawns or marinated tempeh if that suits you better.
Isn’t this Thai Rainbow Noodle Salad the most perfect way to get your 5+ a day? Let me know what you think below in the Comments. However you tweak it, keep it colourful, whole food and zesty!
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Thai Rainbow Noodle Salad with Tangy Peanut Dressing
This Thai-style salad grabs you with its veritable rainbow of colours, and holds you with its hot, sour, salty, sweet taste. Cool and crunchy, too. Make more of the loose, peanutty sauce than you need to drizzle on any likely dish over the next few days.
Tangy Peanut Dressing
- 3 bird's eye chillies chopped; deseeded if liked
- 5 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- 4 limes juiced
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 3 tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 2 tsp date syrup or maple syrup or honey
- 8 g fresh gingerroot optional; peeled and chopped
- 30 g roasted peanuts unsalted preferred
- 250 g cherry tomatoes
- 1 medium courgette
- 80 g sugar snap peas or blanched green beans
- 100 g purple cabbage
- 1 medium carrot
- 75 g rice noodles optional; cooked, cooled and lightly oiled to prevent sticking
- 20 g Thai basil
- 200 g tofu optional
Finely chop about 10 grams of the peanuts and set aside. This will be a crunchy garnish.
First of all, make the dressing. Add everything listed into a blender or mini food processor bowl/mini chopper. Pulse until well-blended but with still some texture. Of course you can make it smooth if you wish. Taste it and adjust to your liking; you might want it a bit sweeter. I sometimes use a bit of mango to sweeten instead of the syrup.
If you wish to add tofu, lightly press it of its liquid then cut into cubes or slabs. Slick with a little toasted sesame oil then bake in a 180C/350F oven on a tray for 12 minutes. Or you can sauté in a pan until golden with some rapeseed oil.
Now it is just a matter of cutting the vegetables and assembling the salad. Or rather mixing. To really get the tangy, peanutty flavours into all the nooks and crannies it's really best to mix it rather than compose it.
Start with the tomatoes. Crush them with the flat of your hand (or halve and crush), place them in a serving bowl and pour over the dressing. Let them sit to absorb the flavours while you julienne or spiralise the courgette and carrot. Slice the sugar snap peas (no cooking), or blanch cut green beans until crisp-tender then cool under cold water. Finally, slice the cabbage very thinly and cut into mouth-sized lengths for easier eating. Now add in the cooled noodles, if using, and tear in most of the Thai basil.
Toss everything together with your hands or salad forks and slide onto plates, topping with chopped peanuts, more Thai basil and sesame tofu, if using. Dig in!
This salad will expand to fit whatever you fancy adding - sliced yellow summer squash, ribbons of mooli, broccolini, red peppers - anything summery and light.
This salad is easily grain-free by eliminating the noodles and upping the courgette noodles - zoodles/courgetti and/or red cabbage slivers.
Because the courgette will be really watery if it sits, this salad is best eaten straight away. But if you need to make a few hours ahead, keep out the dressing and courgettes and toss just before eating. The dressing can be made a day or so in advance and kept in the fridge, bringing out to get to room temperature, or just-cool.
If you need this to be nut-free, it will still taste great. Just take them out of the dressing. It will be looser, but that's not an issue when there is all that taste to be had in the meal itself. You could also use sunbutter and roasted sunflower seeds if these are okay in your diet.
Pin now. Make soon!