I don’t know why I always forget how great T&T supermarket is.
Yesterday, I went grocery shopping. After 10 days away it was time to restock the fridge with vegetables and fresh herbs. I was really craving fresh herbs now that the temperature is starting to climb. (Mother Nature is, apparently, apologizing for the extra long winter by moving us straight into summer.) Safeway was out of basil, though, so after dropping a friend off at the airport this morning, I decided to quickly stop by T&T in the city’s northeast.
Let’s do a little comparison shopping, shall we?
Two shallots at Safeway: $1.99
Bag of eight shallots at T&T: $1.49
Packages of herbs at Safeway: $2.49
Bag of Thai basil about three sizes larger than Safeway’s: $2.64 (by weight)
Okay, so I only needed a little bit of basil, but bonus basil means more room for creativity. Now, instead of one or two recipes that call for the stuff, I can make three or four. With three baby cucumbers sitting in my car (from my aforementioned friend who needed to ditch the last of her produce before heading on holidays), grape tomatoes at home and a package of mint also sitting in my fridge, I remembered this great little summer salad recipe that uses Saifun noodles.
These noodles — also known as mung bean noodles, bean threads or vermicelli — are the perfect summer food. They don’t need to be boiled, just reconstituted in a little hot water, which is easily done while chopping the rest of the ingredients. The noodles are light and when dressed with lime, rice vinegar, garlic and fresh herbs can be very refreshing. The hits of fresh herbs also make it super tasty.
For the record, Thai basil (also known as holy basil, apparently) does not taste the same as traditional Italian basil, so I wouldn’t suggest using it for your favourite tomato sauce or other Italian dishes. But if it’s a Thai, Vietnamese or southeast Asian recipe that calls for basil, you could definitely use Thai basil if you can find it. A lot of Asian grocers seem to carry it, so keep an eye out.
I originally found this recipe in the Edmonton Journal. My additions and changes are noted in italics. Also note that these noodles suck up the vinaigrette like string sponges, so, when in doubt, don’t skimp. Oh, and I like to use those baby cucumbers that seem to be cropping up everywhere these days; they’re less bitter than the long English cukes. Either way, I’d recommend scraping out the seeds because that ups the soggy factor if you’re not eating it all in one go (or, of course, serving it all in one go).
- 8 oz. (250 grams) saifun bean thread noodles
- 1 cup grape tomatoes (I chop mine in half so they stretch further)
- 1 small cucumber, diced
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 or 3 green onions, minced
- a few cilantro leaves, chopped (cilantro and I are not friends. I do not like it nor understand everyone’s obsession with it. If you like it, by all means add it; I do not.)
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- grated zest and juice of one lime
- 2 tbsp. Thai basil, torn (Of course, if you can only find Italian, that’s fine.)
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed (I mash them, throw them in the dressing, then fish them out just before eating so as to impart as much garlic flavour but without the burn of eating raw garlic.)
- 1 tsp. red chile paste
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- 2 tsp. soy sauce
- 1/4 cup canola oil (I’m sure any vegetable oil will do. But I wouldn’t use olive oil, which I feel would overpower the light flavours of the salad.)
- 1/2 tsp. sesame oil (I usually don’t add this because I find it overpowering.)
Soak the noodles in a bowl of warm water just until softened, about five minutes, then cook one minute in boiling water. (I simply cover them with boiling water and wait about five or six minutes for them to soften.) Drain and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Cover and store in the fridge until ready to make the salad.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Taste to check for seasonings.
Place cold noodles in a large salad bowl. Add tomatoes, cucumber, onions and herbs. Top with dressing and toss well, then put the salad in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving, so the noodles have a chance to soak up the flavours of the dressing.