Big, Cool Noodle Bowl
1. To cook the rice noodles, bring a large saucepan, Dutch oven, or pasta pot of water to a rolling bowl over high heat. Drop in the noodles, remove from the heat, and let stand for 10 minutes, using tongs or a slotted spoon and a fork to separate the noodles and let them cook evenly. When the noodles are tender, drain, rinse in cold water, and drain again. You'll have about 6 cups of cooked noodles. Let stand while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
2. Set out 4 big Asian-style noodle bowls or pasta plates or soup bowls. Divide the ingredients evenly among the bowls: lettuce first, topped with 1 1/2 cups of noodles in each bowl. Put the roast chicken on one side, and the cucumber, fresh herbs, and any optional ingredients you're using on the other. Sprinkle green onions and peanuts over the chicken, pour 1/4 cup of Everyday Dipping Sauce over each portion of the noodles, and serve at once, inviting your guests to toss everything together as they begin to eat.
Everyday Pickled Carrots
I shred carrots on a box grated or in the food processor if I have time, and I use already shredded carrots from the produce section if I'm in a rush.
Makes about 3 cups of pickled carrots
Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, swirling once or twice, until the sugar and salt dissolve and the sauce is clear and smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. (Pour the brine into a cake pan, pie pan, or a metal bowl and place it in the freezer briefly if you're in a hurry.)
Add the shredded carrots to the cooled brine, toss well, and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature, or transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate until serving time. Scoop out carrots from the brine as you need them and store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Everyday Dipping Sauce - Nuoc Cham
Makes about 1/2 cup
Combine the garlic, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce in the bowl of a mortar and mash to a paste. (Or combine them on your cutting board and mash to a coarse paste with a fork and the back of a spoon.) Scrape the paste into a small bowl and stir in the fish sauce, water, and lime juice. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Transfer to small serving bowls for dipping. Or transfer to a jar, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.