When the weather is warm, a salad is a welcome appearance on the menu. And while a basic green side salad does the job, a salad with added meat and flavours can be a meal in itself. ‘I love the fresh flavours of Vietnamese food,’ says Dr Joanna McMillan in her new book Get Lean, Stay Lean. ‘In this recipe the Thai basil, chilli and fresh lime juice give a real zing to the salad. It’s light, incredibly tasty and rich in protein to keep hunger pangs at bay.’


As is traditional in this dish, I’ve used vermicelli noodles. These are very thin noodles made from rice. Do look for those made with brown rice. They are a little harder to find but many supermarkets and health food stores now stock them. (See note.)

2 long red chillies, sliced (optional)
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
1 red capsicum (pepper), thinly sliced
2 carrots, julienned
4 handfuls Thai basil, leaves picked
100g (3½ oz) snow peas (mangetout), trimmed and
1 Lebanese (short) cucumber, thinly sliced
40g (1½ oz/¹⁄3 cup) bean sprouts (sometimes called mung bean sprouts)
2 tablespoons dried shallots, to serve (you’ll find these in good grocers or Asian food stores – you can simply omit if you can’t find them)
400g (14 oz) pork fillet
160g (5½ oz) rice vermicelli noodles (preferably brown, see note)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
50g (1¾ oz/¹⁄3 cup) chopped unsalted peanuts, to serve

Vietnamese dressing
Juice of 1 lime
60ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) fish sauce (check this is a gluten-free brand if coeliac)
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

Put the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for about 5 minutes until soft and tender. Strain off the water and rinse the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pork and pan-fry for about 8 minutes, turning a few times to brown on all sides and cook through. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside to rest for 2–4 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the prepared vegies in a bowl and combine with the noodles. Make the dressing by mixing together the lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar in a small bowl. Drizzle over the salad and toss to combine.

Slice the pork to the thickness of your liking, add to the bowl and toss. Serve sprinkled with the chopped peanuts and dried shallots.

Note Because the portion size is small, and its combined with plenty of protein and good fats which slow digestion, even if you use regular vermicelli noodles the result is a well-balanced, nutritious meal. If you are coeliac do double check that the noodles are made from 100 per cent rice and, therefore, gluten free.

Image and recipe from Get Lean Stay Lean by Joanna McMillan (Murdoch Books RRP$35).


DR JOANNA McMILLAN is a PhD-qualified nutrition scientist, an accredited practising dietitian and a former fitness instructor, giving her the sound credentials required to help us all make our way through the increasingly confusing nutrition and health messages in the media. Joanna is a regular on television, radio and in print media, and a proud ambassador for Diabetes Australia, The Skin and Cancer Foundation, FoodBank NSW/ACT and Muscular Dystrophy. Born and raised in Scotland, Joanna emigrated to Australia in 1999.

What types of salads do you enjoy during the warmer months? And what healthy ingredients do you add to them for an extra flavour boost? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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