This Shan vermicelli salad recipe with sesame, coriander and peanuts makes a deliciously light vegetarian noodle salad from Shan State in northeastern Myanmar, but you’ll spot variations of this dry noodle dish in markets and on menus around the country. Typically eaten as a contrasting accompaniment to rich oily curries it could also be eaten as a satisfying single-bowl meal.
This Shan vermicelli salad recipe with sesame, coriander and peanuts makes one of countless delicious salads and dry noodle dishes that distinguish the food of Shan State and Myanmar more generally. The many cuisines of Myanmar – Shan cuisine, Burmese cuisine, Rakhine cuisine, Kachin cuisine, Karen cuisine, and so on – boast an infinite array of salads, which are healthy, refreshing and light yet filling. Discovering them all is one of the many delights of a food-focused trip to Myanmar.
Heartbreakingly, Myanmar has been off limits to travellers since a coup d’état on the 1st February 2021 ousted the democratically elected government and a nationwide civil disobedience movement emerged. The military junta’s response was an extraordinarily violent crackdown that has included massacres and destruction of villages and resulted in thousands of deaths and disappearances.
But unless you consciously follow Myanmar news, you wouldn’t know it, because Myanmar has disappeared from the home pages of most global news sites and the pages of national newspapers. You need to read news sites such as Al Jazeera and local sites such as Myanmar Now (link below) and follow activists on social media to stay abreast of the ongoing tragedy that the world is ignoring.
I’ll be publishing a dedicated guide to how to help Myanmar’s people and will update that as often as I can. I’m ashamed that it’s taken me so long to do it, but it’s been a tough year – although nowhere near as tough as it has been for the citizens of Myanmar obviously. I’ll also be sharing recipes for our favourite dishes from Myanmar and using these posts to encourage our readers to check out that guide.
Until I publish that post, please do visit Myanmar Now. The military regime is targeting journalists and the independent news site desperately needs donations to continue its vital reporting work. You’ll find more information on the site.
Update: so far we’ve published recipes for Burmese Indian-style chicken curry, Burmese street food-style fried chicken, Burmese coconut rice, Burmese raw cabbage salad, and a Shan tomato salad recipe. Older recipes include a Burmese egg curry and ohn no khao swe, one of our favourite soups from Myanmar.
Now let me tell you about this Shan vermicelli salad recipe with sesame, coriander and peanuts.
Shan Vermicelli Salad Recipe with Sesame, Coriander and Peanuts from Myanmar
I’ve been looking for a recipe close to this Shan vermicelli salad recipe with sesame, coriander and peanuts for years, since we were last in Myanmar a few years ago for a story on noodle-making and the trip before that when we were updating a Myanmar guidebook chapter and did some Shan cooking classes on Inle Lake.
We’d eaten variations of this cold Shan noodle salad everywhere from simple eateries and market stalls in Shan State, best known to travellers as the home of Inle Lake, to Yangon, the Myanmar capital, at a popular Shan eatery, and a ‘salad buffet night’ of all things at the historic Governor’s Residence hotel, where we were lucky to stay on the guidebook research trip.
Which is to explain how we found ourselves at a fancy hotel buffet (yes, there is such a thing), sampling countless salads from right across Myanmar. The salads of Myanmar can be as simple as they can be complex, with crunchy raw vegetable salads made with as few as four or five ingredients to more complex rice and noodle salads with a long list of ingredients, including several types of noodles.
The Shan people love their noodles and Shan State is fairly close to heaven for noodle lovers with an array of noodle dishes made with every type of noodle, from spaghetti-like round noodles and flat wide noodles to fresh round rice noodles and dried bean-thread vermicelli or glass noodles, like the variety of noodle used in this Shan vermicelli salad recipe.
We’ve eaten this kind of vermicelli salad served in small dishes alongside other salads, vegetables and relishes that accompany curries and rice at restaurants, and as single-bowl dishes at rustic eateries, roadside street food joints, and busy market stalls.
You might find a noodle salad such as this listed under salads on a restaurant menu, while at a stall it might be on a laminated menu or blackboard described as a ‘dry’ noodle dish, which means it will also come in the form of a soup. That’s always a tough decision! And one we hope to be able to make again when democracy is restored and there’s peace again in Myanmar.
Tips to Making This Shan Vermicelli Salad Recipe
Just a few quick tips to making this Shan vermicelli salad recipe with sesame, coriander and peanuts. This recipe makes a salad of the size you see in the images, which is plenty for two people if served with another salad, curry, rice, and a relish. You’ll definitely have leftovers for lunch the next day and it tastes just as good.
Do follow instructions on the packet for cooking the dried vermicelli noodles as different types and brands require different times. I have one packet in the cupboard that calls for soaking in boiling water for 10 minutes, while the packet I used was ready in 3 minutes.
While I call for ‘boiling’ water in the Shan vermicelli salad recipe below, I should clarify: I mean water that has just been boiled, so once it reaches boiling point, turn it off and then soak your noodles in the boiled water. If your noodle packet instructions recommend that you soak your noodles in cold water, do as those guidelines say. These noodles are bland so do add salt to the water.
As I suggest in the instructions below, if you’re not a fish sauce lover and you don’t use fish sauce and rice vinegar regularly, use half the recommended amounts in this Shan vermicelli salad recipe, then taste, and then add the remaining amounts – or not – to suit your palate.
Most Myanmar dishes only use white sesame seeds in my experience, but I love the crunch of black sesame seeds so have added those. For additional crunch and texture, make sure to chop up the coriander (cilantro) stalks as well as the leaves. They should be chopped fairly finely.
Shan cooks use their hands to combine ingredients in these kinds of salads. You’ll probably want to pop on some disposable plastic gloves if you’re cooking for guests. I find a pair of chopsticks or two forks also work.
Before I add the peanuts, crispy fried shallots and crispy fried garlic to this Shan vermicelli salad, I keep some aside to use as garnish, along with some fresh coriander leaves and lime quarters. An additional squeeze of lime just before eating adds some zing.
Shan Vermicelli Salad Recipe
- 300 g dried vermicelli noodles
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp white rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp white sesame seeds toasted
- 1 tsp black sesame seeds
- 150 g fresh coriander cilantro, finely chopped, stalks and leaves
- 4 tbsp roasted peanuts crushed
- 2 tbsp crispy fried shallots
- 2 tbsp crispy fried garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
- 1 lime quartered, for garnish
- Cook the dried vermicelli noodles by following the instructions on the packet, which will probably require you to soak them for a few minutes or so in boiling water with salt until soft and tender. When they’re ready, drain them and set them aside in a mixing bowl to cool.
- To a small bowl, add the white rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and salt, and stir well until the sugar has dissolved. If you’re not a regular user of white rice vinegar or fish sauce, add half the recommended amounts first, taste, then add the rest (if you like), adjusting to suit your palate, before adding the sesame seeds and fresh coriander to the dressing.
- Once the noodles have cooled down, pour the dressing over the noodles and combine well, either by using chopsticks or gloved hands.
- Add the peanuts, crispy fried shallots and crispy fried garlic and combine well, then transfer to a serving plate and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and lime quarters.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make our Shan vermicelli salad recipe with sesame, coriander and peanuts as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.