This is such a gorgeous dish and healthy too. It’s a great way to showcase our beautiful salad leaves and with all the herbs and the lime juice it just tastes so fresh and zingy.
I’ve given an option for steak or prawns here, which is how we most often serve it at supperclubs and other events. If you are looking for a veggie/vegan option then chargrilling or roasting some aubergine and dousing it in the dressing while it is still warm if totally delicious. You can replace the fish sauce with two tablespoon soy sauce and one tablespoon water (I find it is saltier than fish sauce).
I’ve suggested adding some pickled radish, but other pickles, particularly carrot and/or mooli (very Vietnamese) are lovely. Adding crunchy beansprouts is also delicious and sometimes we add crispy spring rolls too, especially if we are serving it with prawns.
I’d always suggest that you eat this with chopsticks and before you dig in you use the chopsticks to mix everything together so you are getting all the flavours in each mouthful.
400g steak (fillet, sirloin, rump or onglet all work well, you just need something you can cook medium rare) OR 20 large prawns
200g vermicelli rice noodles
100g salad leaves
A handful or mint
A handful of coriander
Half a cucumber, sliced thinly
2 scallions, sliced on an angle
A few cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (optional)
Pickled radishes (optional)*
40g toasted peanuts or cashew nuts, roughly chopped
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
2 tablespoon sugar
A couple of little red chillies (finely sliced) or more or less to taste. I like more
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
If you are serving with the steak, heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a high heat until just smoking. Oil the steaks on both sides (don’t oil the pan) and season with salt and pepper. Add the steaks to the pan and fry on both sides until the steak is cooked to your liking. I’d always serves the steak for this salad medium-rare, but you should have it whatever way you like. I’m not going to give timings here as it really depends on how thick your steak is. Once the steak is cooked set it aside to rest, I always try to have it resting at a bit of an angle so it isn’t sitting in it’s juices and the outside of the steak stays crisp.
If you are serving with prawns then you should cook the prawns just before serving. Put a pan of water onto the hob to boil about 10 minutes before you are ready to serve.
Put the vermicelli noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 10 – 15 minutes until soft. Then drain the noodles really well and set aside.
Combine all the ingredients for the dressing and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Taste and add more sugar, fish sauce, lime juice as needed. It should be hot, sharp and salty with a little underlying sweetness.
If the lettuce leaves are large roughly chop them. Pick the mint leaves off the stalks and pick the coriander into bite-size sprigs.
Now you are ready to assemble. Divide the noodles between four bowls, I usually use wide pasta bowls for serving this. Scissors help with dividing the noodles, just chop off below the tongs when there is enough in each bowl. Drizzle a bit of dressing over the noodles.
Arrange the salad leaves, cucumber, herbs, and cherry tomatoes and pickled radishes if using around the noodles. I usually put the noodles to one side of the bowl and arrange the vegetables on the other side.
If you are using prawns add them to the boiling water now with a teaspoon salt. Cook until completely pink and then scoop them out of the water with a slotted spoon. If you are using steak then slice it thinly.
Divide the steak or prawns between the four dishes. Sprinkle over the sliced scallions and the chopped peanuts or cashews. Drizzle everything in the bowl generously with the spicy dressing and serve immediately with any remaining dressing on the side.
*To make the pickled radishes, wash the radishes well and either slice or cut into wedges. Combine 100ml white rice vinegar with 100ml water, half a teaspoon of salt and tablespoon sugar. Stir well to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour over the radishes and leave overnight before using. These will keep about a week in the fridge.