good evening vietnam

making it for two

Categories: Grains and Pasta, Dinner for Two, Supper, Posted on July 20, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten

Forget the take-out. Here’s an off the chart Vietnamese noodle dish that is incredibly bright and fresh. The best part, it’s a cinch to make in-home. And with a few tweaks to the ingredients it’s as easy to shop for as it is to prepare.

If you live in LA or NYC fabulous ethnic food is within reach. But for the majority of us take-out often means a soggy container of beige MSG-laden fare. Reading recipes about food that I can’t find where I live tends to heighten my cravings and sets me on a search to see if I can recreate them in my own kitchen.

Many authentic ethnic dishes often call for just a teaspoon or pinch of some obscure ingredient. When you go to google the item, you discover it’s only available in some ridiculously large quantity. The days of me filling my cupboards with one-time use ingredients is over. Now I find myself going back to google and searching for adequate substitutes instead. 

The following recipe originally called for black vinegar. I searched the Asian shelves of several local markets in vain. Then I found a suitable swap using balsamic and rice vinegar with a pinch of sugar. The same was true when I looked for Sichuan preserved vegetables. Instead I whipped together some quick pickles. They are the perfect accompaniment to this Asian bowl. 

You’ll be impressed at how quick and easy these quick pickles are to make.

Thinly slice two persian cucumbers, preferably with a mandolin slicer.

Be sure to always use a guard so you don’t slice your fingers. One of my favorite kitchen tools is my iron mesh glove.

Toss with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, gently massage the cucumber slices with your hands and place in a colander to dispel their liquid. Let drain for at least 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, thinly slice the whites and light green parts of two scallions.

Transfer the cucumbers to a bowl and toss with the scallions, two teaspoons of rice vinegar and ¼ teaspoon of sesame oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside until ready to use or place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days.

For the vietnamese rice noodles with spicy pork and herbs start with one-third pound thin, round rice noodles. They look like translucent spaghetti. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package, taking care to not overcook or they will turn gummy. Immediately drain the noodles and run them under cold water until they are cool to the touch. Drain well and set aside.

For the dressing whisk together one tablespoon rice vinegar, two teaspoons soy sauce, one teaspoon balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon chile oil and one teaspoon sugar until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

For the pork topping heat one tablespoon vegetable or canola oil over medium heat then add the half-pound ground pork and teaspoon of salt. Pan-fry, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer pink and there is no liquid remaining in the pan, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, ginger and scallion whites, and stir occasionally until the raw vegetable smell disappears and the meat starts to brown in places, about 5 minutes.

Add a tablespoon or two of water and cook for another two minutes until the mixture darkens and becomes thick. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Toss together a handful of washed and dried fresh mint, basil and cilantro leaves.

Coarsely chop and set aside.

Chop two tablespoons of salted, roasted peanuts and set aside.

Thinly slice two radishes and set aside. Note that all of these components can be prepped in advance. 

When you’re ready to serve, divide the cool, drained noodles into two individual bowls. 

Top each with a tablespoon of vinegar dressing.

follow with a pile of ground pork.

Then the chopped herbs, chopped peanuts and sliced radishes, to taste. Spoon quick pickles along one third of the edge of each bowl. Scatter the sliced green scallions on top. Serve with any remaining garnishes and additional dressing on the side.

Try making this “in” for your next dinner for two. Your chopsticks will thank you!

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