Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Pork

One of the perks of living in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest is the abundant diversity of world cultures. Fortunately, much of this diversity makes its way into the food chain and from there into my own kitchen. One of my most favorite cuisines is Vietnamese food. Truth be told, I love all Asian inspired dishes, and one of the first that I ever had was an uber-delicious (don't you say "uber" too? Yeah, I thought so.) rice noodle salad with flame broiled pork. It's called Bun Thit Nuong (according to the Saigon Grill's take out menu), and it is the most amazing combination of textures and flavors. It's loaded with crunchy raw veggies, al dente warm rice noodle vermicelli, hot off the grill pork, and drizzled with an Asian sweet/sour/salty/spicy dressing. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life.
Today's recipe is my attempt to recreate this delicacy at home.  Let me be up front about the prep time: it involves a LOT of chopping. Lots and lots and lots of chopping. And then more chopping. Did I mention you will spend time chopping? This is the recipe to go to when you have something you want to work out of your system, or as in my case, when you want to ponder over a situation. Since it took me a good 15 minutes to gather, peel, and chop everything (and I'm pretty good with a knife), I had a lot of time to run through various scenarios of said situation in my head. Plus, it's a good thing to get me to slow down a bit and enjoy the process, not just the end result. Ahem. But I digress. Back to the recipe. Once you have finished prepping everything, it comes together toot-sweet.
I like this recipe because it fits in with my plan to eat more veggies and less meat. Notice I said "less" meat, not "no" meat.  We are carnivores in this family.  I didn't grill the pork because it was monsooning outside. This turned out great just pan frying the meat. This is equally good with chicken as well as shrimp.

Here we go:

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Pork

1 pkg Asian Rice Noodles - thin, vermicelli style

3 boneless pork chops, 1 inch thick, sliced ultra thin against the grain
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil

5 cups chopped romaine lettuce
4 carrots, sliced matchstick thin (I used one of those serrated veggie peelers)
2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced in thin 1/2 rounds
1 cup bean sprouts
2 green onions - chopped thin
1/4 cup white onion, sliced in thin 1/2 rounds (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro - chopped
1/2 cup salted cocktail style peanuts, chopped

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice or lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons rice vinegar, or use cider vinegar is you don't have the rice one
6 tablespoons fish sauce (called Nouc Cham) (It's stinky, but tastes better than it smells)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chili chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
6 tablespoons water

On a cutting board, toss the pork strips with the soy sauce, ginger, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and oil. Let sit and marinate while you chop the bazillion veggies.
Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. If necessary, add a tablespoon of oil (like canola) and stir fry the pork strips until they are golden brown.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. I've always wanted to say that. Plus, just wanted to see if you were still with me.  hehe  Anyway, meanwhile, prepare the rice noodles according to package directions. NOTE: The noodles cook really quickly; take care not to over cook them. Drain and keep warm.
Prepare the dressing by combining all the incredients.  Now it's time to assemble! You will need large individual serving bowls.  I used pasta bowls and they worked perfectly.  In each bowl, place a generous serving of the warm noodles. Artfully, surround the noodles with individual mounds of lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts, your choice of onions, cilantro, and meat. Drizzle with the dressing. Garnish with peanuts. (I took the pictures before adding the peanuts. Oops!)
Surprisingly, this is a hit in my family.  My daughters love this, served without the dressing.  My son ate his, but I did serve his on a large plate and didn't have the food touching salad style.  My husband ate two huge salads and rolled away from the table. An added bonus is that it's gluten free, too. Yeah!

This is an interesting salad in that it is sweet, sour, salty, and spicy.  It's also crunchy, soft, and chewy.  Let's not forget that it has warm (noodles), hot (meat), and cold (veggies) taking place, too. Somehow, and I'm not quite sure why that is, it all works together beautifully.  Plus, it's lovely to look at.  It's great all year long, but I particularly like it in the spring and summer. It's a non-traditional salad (for us that is), and I love it.

What's your favorite non-traditional salad? Do share!
Homeschool update:  Youngest daughter is REALLY into Science these days. Here's a shot of her latest science/art combo project.  Volcano!  In honor of the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's (which you can easily see from the Portland area), she created her own eruption. She gave a terrific presentation on the various types of volcanos, and then performed an eruption. It was so COOL!!! Tomorrow we are off to the Mt. Hood Community College Planetarium for a field trip! I love homeschooling!


DayPhoto said...

You are lucky to live where many cultures come together. What we have here is lots of Mexican food. Although, Colorado (western)
is really not known for food the locals mainly cooking 'cowboy fare' the mexican food makes a natural blend to what we already eat. The last 5-8 years has brought us lots and lots of Chinese food, so I am learning more tastes.

I would love to travel and just try out lots of local food, not the food fit for tourists, but local stuff.

Thanks for the recipe!


Cathy said...

I know I will love this recipe, Paula. The dressing has all the flavors I like and, everything combined, is the perfect blend of textures and tastes. Can't wait to try it.

Can you believe this weather? It's hailing at my house.

Linda said...

I love these kinds of dishes. I often eat at a Vietnamese place that serves something similar and I love it. I love the rice noodle soup that they make too.

Bellini Valli said...

I have no issues to work out of my system but this sounds uber-delicious:D My daughter would be so happy if I made Asian.

Marjie said...

We made a volcano about 2 weeks ago! It was bucketloads of fun! But we aren't going to anything related to Mt. Hood *sigh*.

Can you see me standing around and chopping stuff for about an hour to make enough for my hungry horde? Me neither. So I'll have to just drool on my monitor over yours!

(And, yes, we took Ryan Day off from school! I trust Little Miss will get similar treatment!)

Julie said...

Looks scrumptious to me!

Pam said...

My son loves science too... we just recently built a volcano and he thought it was so cool.

The salad looks amazing. So many great flavors and textures. MMMM good.

grace said...

hone those knife skills, paula! what a beautiful dish. :)

Mickle in NZ said...

I remember Mt Saint Helens - the video shots of before and of the big slump before she blew all the ash, rocks and mud. So like we are earned that our Volcanoes do, too.

Now - Vietnamese salad, oh yes! The versions I use have no soy sauce but plenty of flavour and liberal use of fish sauce - I love the stuff, kind of makes up for me loathing fresh coriander/cilantro and having to watch the fibre element of food. Must send you my own version of this salad - the marinade for the meat is so yummy.

Hope you have a very happy late springtime weekend,

Michelle and Zebbycat xxx and purrrrumbles

Pam said...

This looks delicious. We live in a diverse area also and it's always interesting with the different foods.

Mickle in NZ said...

earned should read "warned".

Mt Ruapehu is "quiescent" but never trust-worthy - has the 2 major North Island ski fields on it!

Iis okay - I never have, and have no wish at all now to "ski".

When I was about 3 my dear Parents took me up to the snow. I promptly complained that:

"It's all Cold and Wet"

- 42 years on and I'm still right!

The Blonde Duck said...

Ben would adore this. He loves Asian cuisine.

Manggy said...

I don't get it -- this is what a traditional salad looks like to me ;) (Asian commenter FTW!) I also always order this at the Vietnamese restaurants - not so much a soup person (unless I'm very cold or very sick). Love it!

The Blonde Duck said...

Just let me know when the first meeting of the Pimento Cheese ADdict club is and I'll be there with a spoon!

Cheryl said...

YUMMY, that is one of my top two favorites at my local Vietnamese place, I will be making this while on vacation!

p.s. puppy yet?

Julie said...

Amazing...I know I would love this!