Cool way to spice up a hot day with a tanghoon salad

If the heat is getting in the way of your appetite, try this classic Thai salad


This is an old favourite, which I recently resurrected during these hot sweltering days.

It makes for a cool, refreshing and yet most flavoursome mouthful.

I'm talking about yum woon sen or Thai tanghoon salad, which I served for lunch the other day. I updated it by making vegetables, rather than the glass noodles, the focus of this classic.



    100g dried tanghoon

    1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved

    2 to 3, or more, stalks of Chinese celery, leaves plucked and stems cut into short lengths

    2 to 3, or more, bunches of fresh coriander leaves, plucked and stems cut into short lengths

    A scattering of fresh mint leaves

    1/2 an onion, peeled and sliced

    (You can also add cucumber, celery and carrot, sliced or shredded)

    100g minced pork or chicken

    1 tsp chopped garlic

    1 tsp fish sauce

    4 or 5 pieces dried black fungus, softened in water

    A handful of beansprouts, raw


    2 tbs fish sauce

    Juice from a lemon

    1/2 cup of chilled water

    1 tbs palm sugar (broken up)

    1 tsp chopped garlic

    1 tsp chopped coriander root

    2 red chillies, chopped finely, optional


    Soak the dried glass noodles in water till softened, then scald them in hot boiling water to tenderise the noodles. Drain and leave aside.

    Prepare the other salad ingredients: the tomatoes, coriander, Chinese celery and onions. Add other optional vegetables if you like. Cut off the hard ends of softened black fungus and shred finely.

    Heat 1 tbs of vegetable oil in a pan and saute the chopped garlic.

    When it becomes fragrant, add the minced meat. Season with fish sauce and white pepper and toss well to mix. Add the shredded black fungus. Set aside.

    Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together and adjusting the seasoning to taste. Make sure that the sugar is dissolved before adding more.

    Place the softened tanghoon in a salad bowl. Top with the minced meat mixture, then the vegetables. Garnish with the fresh herbs and beansprouts.

    Dress with the fish sauce dressing and toss before serving. Serves four. 

It hit the spot.

I added lots of cherry tomatoes, fresh Chinese celery, coriander and mint to the dish, which also had the glass noodles or tanghoon and yes, a topping of minced pork or chicken, stir-fried first with garlic and fish sauce.

It all made for a satisfying one-dish meal.

To make the meat topping more substantial, I added some shredded black fungus to the pan and it delivered yet more texture to the mouthful.

And you could go on: adding more vegetables to the mix instead of restricting yourself to the usual standbys.

You could also opt for seafood, such as prawns and squid, rather than minced meat, as the main protein in the dish.

Just make sure that you have fresh herbs to give it a fragrant flourish, especially the all-important fresh coriander leaves (and roots which you add to the dressing) that give the dish its characteristic flavour.

This salad is useful when you need a dish to bring to a picnic or to a potluck party, for it can be served at room temperature and keeps well with waiting.

Yet unlike western salads, it is spicy, flavoursome with chilli, garlic and fish sauce, and satisfying for carb lovers as noodles are also found in the mix.

The noodles used in the dish are glass or cellophane noodles, or what we call tanghoon.

Made from mung beans and sold dried, it is slippery, transparent and slips down the throat easily when reconstituted.

While the Thais use it in a salad, it is also found fried, in soups or as an ingredient in stews, such as chap chye.

While you will get a trace of protein and no sugar or fat from dried tanghoon, you will get plenty of carbs. But it is made from starch, a complex carbohydrate.

It has a glycaemic index of 45 which makes it a low-glycaemic carbohydrate, that is, it does not cause a big surge in blood sugar.

If you need to boost your carb intake, you should put glass noodles on the menu.

For most of us, however, this method of serving it would give you the satisfaction of having carbs on the plate, but not too much.

Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous recipes for Eat To Live can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Cool way to spice up a hot day'. Subscribe