This quick rice noodle salad with Vietnamese ham (banh uot cha lua) is an absolute gem of a recipe that is not too widely known. It is made with rice noodles, loaded up with fresh herbs and dressed with a tangy Vietnamese dipping sauce (nuoc mam cham). It requires zero cooking, and other than the dressing everything else is store-bought. This is a great recipe to have on hand for days where you are worn out and need something quick and delicious.
Making Quick Rice Noodle Salad with Vietnamese Ham
This is one of my all time favourite meals when I can’t be stuffed cooking. The general concept is the same as banh cuon (Vietnamese steamed rice rolls) but without the filling. Super easy, super quick and super delicious.
The basic building blocks of this salad are:
- Large flat rice noodles
- Fried shallots
- Vietnamese ham (cha lua)
- Fresh herbs
- Vietnamese dipping sauce (Nuoc mam cham)
Other than the nuoc mam cham, the other components are things you just have to buy then wash/chop and combine together.
The Rice Noodles
Where and How to Buy it
The “noodles” are sold in rice sheet form which are rolled up, which you then cut into noodles.
You can find the rice rolls at most Asian groceries. Most of the time, Asian groceries will leave them out of the cold room and in a cool and dry place. This is to stop it from going hard and keep it soft and springy.
Look for packaging that says “banh cuon.” Do not buy the fresh banh pho noodles or dried rice noodle for this dish, they just won’t work as well.
Fresher rice rolls will feel softer than ones that are older. Obviously try to buy the freshest rice rolls available, but if you do end up with something a bit older/harder it’s definitely not a deal breaker.
Preparing the Rice Noodles
- Take out each rice sheet, leaving it rolled up. Cut into segments roughly 3 – 4 cm / 1 – 1.5 in long. Do not cut the noodles too thin, wider noodles are more resilient and don’t break up as easily when mixed with other ingredients.
- Heat the noodles in the microwave until they are just softened. Microwave initially for one minute, then in extra 30 second increments if required. Softer/fresher noodles will require less time than harder/older noodles. It’s important to heat using one minute increments to prevent overcooking the noodles, which will make them mushy.
- Gently unravel each block. Avoid breaking the noodle into smaller pieces.
The Vietnamese Dressing
The dressing for this noodle dish is Vietnamese dipping sauce (nuoc mam cham), which is made with fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. You can find the full recipe here in my Vietnamese dipping sauce (nuoc mam cham) post. This dressing is sweet, tangy and salty and the star of this salad.
You may find the dressing very strong on its own but do not be alarmed. When you add the noodles, herbs and vegetables you will find the moisture in these ingredients will dilute the dressing.
How much dressing to add is completely up to you. I like to drown my noodles in it.
Vietnamese Ham, Herbs and Vegetables
Vietnamese ham or cha lua can be bought from Asian groceries. It does not require any cooking.
No Vietnamese salad would be complete without some fresh herbs. The best ones for this dish are:
- Thai basil
You can buy all these herbs from Asian groceries, and the coriander can also be bought from mainstream supermarkets. Wash the herbs thoroughly. Roughly tear up the coriander (leaves and stalks), and use the leaves from the Thai basil and perilla.
My favourite vegetables for this dish are:
- Bean sprouts
- Continental cucumber
Garnish the salad with fried shallots/onion (hanh phi), which you can either make yourself or buy from Asian groceries. Do not skip this ingredient, it adds crunch and flavour and this salad is not the same without it!
Sweet Potato and Prawn Fritters
If you really want to jazz up this salad, add some sweet potato and prawn fritters, either whole or cut into thick crunchy strips. You can either make them specifically for this salad, or use this salad as a way to use up any leftovers from the day before.
Serving the Dish
Individual vs communal plates
There are two main ways to serve this:
- Individual plates – fully assemble each serving, leaving extra dressing on the table for those who want more. This is a better option for people who aren’t as familiar/comfortable with Vietnamese food, and/or if you’re only making this for a few people.
- Communal plates – give each person a plate of rice noodles. Have all the prepped toppings at the centre of the table and people can make tailor their own salad to their taste. This is better if serving to people who are more familiar/comfortable with Vietnamese food, and/or if you’re making this for a larger gathering.
I personally like to let people make their own plates since it gets people involved, talking and is just a little bit of fun.
How to Serve the Noodles
- Make sure absolutely everything is prepped and ready to go.
- If the noodles have gone cold then reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds.
- Warm the dressing in the microwave for 40 sec or until warm.
- Serve it up as quickly as you can!
Other Noodle Recipes You Might Enjoy
- Vietnamese Beef Noodle Bowls (Bun Bo Xao)
- Chicken and Prawn Pad Thai
- Rice Noodles with Egg Gravy (Wan Tan Hor)
- Chicken and Rice Noodle Stir Fry
- Easy Chicken and Hokkien Noodle Stir Fry
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Scruff & Steph
Quick Rice Noodle Salad with Vietnamese Ham (Banh Uot Cha Lua)
Toppings (All rough amounts. Feel free to change to your taste)
- 2 tbsp fried onions
- 150 gm Vietnamese ham (cha lua), cut into strips
- 1/2 cup cucumber, chopped
- 1 cup bean sprouts (optional)
- 6 sprigs coriander, roughly chopped (optional)
- 8 Thai basil leaves, torn (optional)
- 3 – 4
Vietnamese sweet potato and prawn fritterscut into big chunks
- Make the Vietnamese dipping sauce. Detailed recipe instructions here.
(This can be made days in advance.)
- Prepare all your toppings.
- Take the banh cuon (rice sheet rolls) out and cut roughly into 3 – 4 cm / 1 – 1.5 in blocks.
- Place them on a plate and microwave for 1 minute on high. Check to see if they have softened enough to unravel. Put any blocks that are still hard back into the microwave for a further 30 seconds or until soft. Repeat until all noodles have softened, being careful not to overcook them.
- Gently unravel the rice rolls and divide into portions.
- Warm the Vietnamese dipping sauce in the microwave for 40 seconds or until warm.
- Check if the noodles are cold. If yes, put each plate of noodles in the microwave for 30 seconds or until warm.
- Add the toppings to each plate of noodles.
- Pour 3 – 5 tbsp of Vietnamese dipping sauce over the top.
- Serve with extra Vietnamese dipping sauce on the side.