Cold Rice Noodle Salad
Cold Rice Noodle Salad

This Cold Rice Noodle Salad tosses cool, smooth rice noodles with crispy shredded veggies and a savory sesame dressing for the perfect summer salad.

On warm summer days, I dream of the beautiful city of Kunming in southwest China and the light, cool noodles I often ate while living there.

This popular pasta salad mixes smooth, bouncy rice noodles with long strips of vegetables, a vinegar dressing and spicy chili oil. While most Kunming restaurants serve this salad as part of a larger meal, I think it makes a perfect summer lunch or light dinner on its own. To the amazement of my Chinese neighbors, I often enjoyed it so much.

The Best Rice Noodles: Fresh vs. Dried

This salad is traditionally made with fresh, round Chinese-style rice noodles called “Mixian”. If you have access to a Chinatown or a Vietnamese market, look for these noodles.

They are sometimes labeled with their Vietnamese name, bread roll. These fresh noodles don’t need to be cooked. Simply place the noodles in a serving bowl. If you need to keep them in the fridge for a day or two, refresh them under hot running water for a few seconds.

To make this dried noodle salad, use medium-sized rice noodles, like the Dragonfly brand “rice sticks” often used for pho or pad thai. This size goes well with shredded vegetables.

How to cook dried rice noodles

Dried rice noodles each have their own cooking time, but some packaging does not specify it. Use chopsticks or tongs to test them as they cook for flavorful, bouncy noodles that mimic the texture of fresh pasta:

  • Test the noodles occasionally as they cook. Turn off the heat when the pasta is still quite chewy in the center — firmer than an al dente pasta.
  • Leave the noodles in the hot water for another minute or two. They keep getting softer on the inside without getting too soft on the outside. The noodles are ready when they are reasonably soft in the center but firm enough to chew well.
  • Drain the pasta and immediately rinse under cold running water. This rinsing is crucial: it stops the cooking and removes excess starch to ensure the noodles aren’t sticky and don’t clump together.

How to cut vegetables into Chinese strips

With this dish, most of the cooking is done during prep: slicing the vegetables into long, thin strips. These stripes, called “si” in Mandarin, are long and very thin. They resemble the shape of the mixian and are easy to grab with chopsticks. Once the veggies are ready, just cook the pasta, make the dressing, and toss them together.

Because cutting each vegetable into si can be time-consuming, many Chinese home cooks and chefs are turning to mandolins to speed up the process.

If you don’t have a mandolin, all you need is a sharp knife. If you have a mandolin, use the mandolin to thinly slice the carrots, cucumber, and peppers lengthwise. Then cut them into thin strips with a sharp knife. If your mandolin has a fine-toothed cutting blade, you can use it to cut prep time even further!

The spring onions and snow peas can be cut lengthwise into thin strips with a sharp knife.

Chinese vinegar and soy sauce

The dressing for this salad is a simple concoction of soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. It is very similar to a traditional dumpling dipping sauce.

You can also add some chili oil for spiciness and extra flavor. Traditionally, Chinese soy sauce comes in light and dark varieties, which differ in saltiness and intensity.

This recipe calls for Chinese light soy sauce. Alternatively, use Japanese soy sauce or tamari, but dilute with a little water: Use 3 tablespoons tamari and 1 tablespoon water instead of 1/4 cup Chinese soy sauce.

China, like Italy or any vinegar-loving country, uses a variety of vinegars. This dish is traditionally made with Shanxi vinegar, but any dark Chinese vinegar will work well. You may also find a lighter, clear, or yellow Chinese Rice Vinegar; it will not work well in this dish.

You can typically find three types of dark Chinese vinegar in Asian markets in the United States:

  • Chinkiang vinegar, which is relatively tart.
  • Shanxi vinegar, which is richer.
  • Black vinegar originating from Taiwan.

Add some protein to this cold rice noodle salad

This recipe calls for rice noodles and veggies, but you can easily add some protein to the mix.

In Yunnan, a province of China, this dish is often prepared with shredded chicken, similar to the poached chicken used in chicken salad, or eggs cooked into a very thin omelet and cut into long, thin strips of the shape of the noodles correspond to vegetables.

Both are excellent and can be added after the salad is served so they don’t soak up too much dressing.

how to serve

Every once in a while I make an effort to arrange the colorful veggies in a sun pattern on top of the noodles with the coriander and chilli oil in the middle. I only toss it with the dressing after everyone has had a chance to admire the gorgeous dish.

Make this pasta salad ahead of time

Each component (the veggies, pasta, and dressing) of this salad can be made a few hours or even a day in advance, but it’s best to combine and season it just before serving.

You can soften pre-cooked, chilled pasta by running it under hot water for a few seconds. Drain them well before putting them on.

Leftovers already made are still delicious if you keep them in the fridge for a day or two. Keep in mind that refrigerating the cooked pasta will affect the texture.

More Pasta Salad Recipes:

  • Thai noodle salad with peanut sauce
  • Sesame Noodle Salad
  • Soda Noodle Salad
  • Steak Noodle Shells with Miso Lime Dressing
  • Korean Spicy Cold Noodles

Cold Rice Noodle Salad

preparation time
40 minutes

cooking time
15 minutes

total time
55 minutes

6 servings

If you can’t find Dragonfly brand rice noodles, look for a thick rice noodle. Some alternative brands are Three Ladies Brand, Bún Laí-Thieû, Asian Best Brand and Viet Way. Rice vermicelli are too thin for this salad.


For the salad

  • 14 ounces Dragonfly brand dried “rice sticks” or similar rice noodles

  • 3 spring onionsonly white and light green parts

  • 2 Middle carrots

  • 1 Red pepper

  • 1/2 English cucumber

  • 2 cups (6 ounces) snow peas

  • 1/2 Cup coriander leavesroughly chopped

  • Chinese Chili oil or chili crisp for a drizzle

For the dressing

  • 1 clove garlicchopped

  • 1/4 Cup mild soy sauce

  • 2 1/2 tablespoon Chinese black Vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


  1. Cook pasta:

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until pliable but still quite firm inside, about 6 minutes.

    Turn off the heat and let the noodles sit in the water for about 2 minutes, until cooked through but still chewy. When you pull on a noodle, it should stretch quite a bit before breaking.

    Drain the pasta and immediately rinse under cold running water. Gently massage them to stop cooking and remove excess starch until cool to the touch.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables:

    Remove the roots from the spring onions and chop into 2 to 3 inch long pieces. Cut them in half lengthwise, and then slice them into very thin strips. Place them in a small bowl and cover with cold water to soften their flavor a bit.

    Peel the carrots and cut off the ends. Cut them into 2 to 3 inch long pieces, then slice them lengthwise into thin slices about 1/8 inch thick. This can be done with a mandolin. Cut the slices into thin strips.

    Remove the stem and seeds from the peppers and cut into long thin strips to match the carrots.

    Halve the cucumber lengthways. Use a spoon to scoop out the soft, seed-filled center and discard. Leave the skin on. Cut the cucumber lengthwise into thin strips that match the other vegetables.

    Pinch off both ends of the snow peas and remove the string that runs along one side. Cut them lengthwise into thin strips.

  3. Make the dressing:

    In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil until the sugar is dissolved.

  4. Arrange and serve the salad:

    Drain the scallions. In a large bowl, add the drained pasta, scallions, carrots, peppers, cucumber, and peas. Add the dressing and mix well to coat evenly. Top with the coriander. Drizzle with the chilli oil or serve as a side dish.

nutritional information (per serving)
312 calories
3g Fat
63g carbohydrates
6g protein
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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!