Spring is upon us and our food tends to lighten. I put away the hearty stews and meat of the winter menu and start eating more vegetables and lighter fare. This dish is one of my favorites at a Vietnamese restaurant. Years ago in Baton Rouge, La I discovered a small place that served it and was astonished at its complexity. The dish seems complicated at first but once you get the basics down it’s easy to improvise on. If you can’t find the ingredients at your local supermarket, seek out an asian market.
The dish is called Bun Thit Nuong on most restaurant menus. Occasionally it’s also served with a fried pork spring roll called Cha Gio.
This is the sauce to pour over your vermicelli bowl. This should be made in advance to sit and marinate in addition to making prep easier. Make extra, you’ll be eating this overall meal for several days if you’re anything like our family. I always make extra..in case company is over.
1/2 c fish sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 c water
1/4 c grated carrots
1/4 c grated daikon radish
1 clove garlic minced finely
juice of 1/2 lime
½ to 1 tsp Sambal chili paste or one fresh finely minced red chili
Bun Thit Nuong (rice vermicelli with charcoal broiled pork)
3 shallots minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 c fish sauce
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb pork sliced thin and placed in marinade
You can use anything from chops to butt for the recipe. If it has some fat that’s a plus for flavor! Keep in mind that you’ll be grilling this or broiling it in the oven so make the pieces sized for that purpose. You don’t want them falling through the metal grate onto the coals.
Prepare noodles according to package directions. Some are as simple as just soaking in water. Once they’re ready and the water is drained they can be set aside and covered with plastic wrap to sit until time to assemble the bowl. I prefer them room temperature. This allows the contrast of cooked meat, cool noodles and fresh vegetables.
Toppings for the bowl include:
fresh pan roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
scallions thinly sliced
lettuce sliced thin
mung bean sprouts
deseeded sliced cucumber
These aren’t as traditional but you can use cabbage, bok choy, any kind of lettuce, sliced radish of any kind, swiss chard, sugar snap peas…preferably whatever came out of your front yard garden.
If using a grill prep it in advance and cook meat till browned well on the outside.
If using an oven preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Arrange the pork on the foil and broil for 10 minutes on one side; then turn the pieces over and broil for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven when caramelized lightly and cooked through.
Place noodles in a bowl and serve a platter with all of the toppings and nuc mam. You can let everyone put whatever toppings and vegetables they like on their own bowl. Chop the meat into bite sized pieces.
This is a wonderful warm spring day meal and is sure to impress. Fish sauce is a versatile ingredient and adds a large amount of savory umami in addition to brining the pork so it remains juicy. If you have fresh garden produce experiment. My listing swiss chard and any kind of lettuce is due to the fact that if we have extra from the garden this is one of those meals it goes into.
Special thanks to the people of Vietnam for giving me one of my favorite meals.
Try using chopsticks to eat this and…Enjoy!