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A bowl of rice noodles with herbs and nuoc cham.

Rice Noodles with Nuoc Cham, Herbs, & Crispy Tofu

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4.8 from 4 reviews


These noodles are inspired a dish a chef I worked for in Philadelphia often made for lunch during the summer.

If you like video, you can watch a how-to in Instagram stories.


Nuoc cham is a spicy, sweet, sharp condiment ubiquitous at nearly every Vietnamese meal. When using it as a dipping sauce, as here, you can omit the water.

In place of shrimp or other meat (see story above), I made Sarah Jampel’s crispy sesame tofu on Food52 ages ago and absolutely loved it. I adjusted the recipe here slightly for simplicity: instead of using 2 teaspoons soy sauce, I use 2 teaspoons of the nuoc cham dressing, and I omit the sesame oil. If you wish to follow her original recipe, do so here. For some visual guidance on pressing tofu, see this post.

If tofu isn’t your thing, grilled or sautéed shrimp would be delicious as would really any protein you like: I’d serve them with grilled chicken thighs, skirt steak, or pork tenderloin, to name a few.

I like to slice cucumbers on a mandoline, but if that scares you, simply slice them thinly using your knife. Carrots or radish or daikon would all be nice here, too. A sprializer is a good tool for this as well and also less scary than using a mandoline.


for the nuoc cham dressing:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
  • 2 red Thai chilies or serrano or jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
  • squirt Sriracha, optional

for the tofu:

  • 14-oz block extra-firm tofu, pressed if you have time
  • 2 tablespoons oil such as peanut, vegetable or olive
  • 2 teaspoons nuoc cham dressing, see notes
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon panko
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

for the noodle dish:

  • 8 oz dried rice noodles
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts
  • 1 cucumber or carrot or other vegetable, thinly sliced, see notes
  • herbs: cilantro, mint, Thai basil (if you can find it), thinly sliced
  • nuoc cham dressing to taste
  • crispy tofu or other protein of choice, see notes


  1. Make the nuoc cham dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the garlic, chilies, and 1/4 cup of the water. Add Sriracha, if using. Taste and adjust flavors if necessary with more lime, hot chilies, and the remaining 1/4 cup water if desired. Set aside.
  2. To make the tofu: Heat the oven to 400° F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Add the oil, nuoc cham, corn starch, panko, and sesame seeds, and stir to coat. Spread the tofu onto the baking sheet, leaving excess dressing behind. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden and crisp on top and bottom.
  3. To assemble the noodles: Fill a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Boil according to package instructions, typically 4-6 minutes. Drain and rinse until cold water. (Notes: To prevent sticking, you could toss the noddles in a few drops of sesame (or other) oil). Transfer noodles to a large bowl. Add the scallions, cucumbers or other vegetables, herbs, and dressing to taste. Toss. Add more dressing if necessary. Add tofu or other protein and toss again.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Noodles
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Asian, Vietnamese