Tag Archives: vietnamese

Rice Noodle Salad (Bún) with Vietnamese Turkey Meatballs

7 May

If you really want to split hairs, this salad—one of my all-time favorites—is not really a salad, so to speak.  More than anything, it’s a collection of crisp, crunchy vegetables—some pickled, some not—a handful of fresh herbs, and a brisk, punchy sauce, all piled on a bed of cool noodles.  It is, in essence, the embodiment of all the elements I love in a dish.  It is versatile, it is complex in its bite and flavors, but it is the perfect meal to make on a slow afternoon or evening, when your only pressing plans involve eventually sitting down with friends or family and enjoying a nice, casual meal with one another.

This dish may appear to contain far too many steps and ingredients for the casual home cook, but I promise you that a long list of ingredients—many of which are pantry and refrigerator staples—does not equal a prolonged sentence of kitchen labor.  Everything comes together in due time, with one item resting while another one steeps, some items cooking while others are being chopped.

This inspiration for this dish, beyond the dozens of Vietnamese noodle bowls I’ve eaten over the course of my life, comes from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, that veritable bible of Southeast Asian cooking.  I’ve extolled the many virtues of Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford before, but it bears repeating that, if you are looking for an all-purpose Asian cookbook, you could do much worse than to get comfortable with a copy of this book.  Duguid and Alford, now separated, sadly, have spent years traveling throughout Asia, first as a couple, then eventually as a family of four.  Their traveling, while seemingly culinary in its focus, served as much as an education as anything else.  To be able to immerse oneself in another culture, or many cultures, so completely is just astonishing in its accomplishment.  Reading their books (and there are many from which to choose) is not only a gateway to an entirely new focus in cooking, but also in examining the role and history of food in the lives of people all over the world.

Last Year: Quick and Easy Citrus Crepes with Berry Sauce

Rice Noodle Salad (Bún) with Vietnamese Turkey Meatballs Recipe

Not into meat?  These baked vegetable wontons would be a great substitute for the turkey meatballs.

For the Salad:

1 pound rice vermicelli or dried rice noodles (soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, then cooked in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drained, rinsed, and set aside)

chopped salad greens (spinach, Napa cabbage, etc.)

pickled carrot and daikon strips (recipe follows)

bean sprouts

chopped cucumber, seeds removed

fresh cilantro leaves

fresh mint leaves

lime wedges

nuoc cham (recipe follows)

Vietnamese turkey meatballs (recipe follows)

Pickled Carrot and Daikon Radish Salad

½ pound peeled carrots

½ pound peeled daikon radish

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups water

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

Using a very sharp knife or a mandolin slicer, cut the carrots and radish into matchsticks.  You should have about 4 cups of matchsticks total.  Place the carrots and radish in a large strainer, sprinkle over the salt, and toss well with your hands.  Place over a bowl or in the sink, and allow to stand for 20 to 30 minutes.

While the vegetables are waiting in the strainer, combine the water, vinegar, and sugar in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature (the mixture must cool almost completely, as the goal is not to cook the vegetables, but simply quick pickle them).

Rinse the vegetables in cold water, then squeeze dry and transfer to a medium bowl.  Pour over the vinegar mixture and stir gently to ensure all the vegetables become completely coated.  Allow vegetables to sit in vinegar mixture for at least 1 hour before serving.

Nuoc Cham

¼ cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce

¼ cup of water

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 small clove of garlic, minced

1 minced bird chile, or 2 crumpled dried red chiles

In a small bowl or small jar (I find that a jar works best), combine all the ingredients.  Stir or shake (if using a jar) to combine completely, making sure the sugar is completely dissolved.  This sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes roughly ¾ cup sauce.

Vietnamese Turkey Meatballs

1 pound ground turkey

¼ cup minced shallot

¼ cup minced garlic

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

generous grinding of black pepper

2 tablespoons roasted rice powder, optional (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Using your hands, mix everything together until they are completely integrated.  You can, at this point, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, or you can proceed immediately to cooking.

Place an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler, and preheat your oven’s broiler on high.  Line a large baking sheet with a layer of foil.

Scoop a generous tablespoon of turkey mixture and, using your hands, form it into a tight ball.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Form all the turkey mixture this way.  You should end up with roughly 3 dozen balls.

Place the filled baking sheet under the broiler and cook meatballs for 10 minutes.  Turn meatballs over, then continue cooking until meatballs are entirely cooked through, yet still quite succulent (this should take around 15 minutes total, but could take up to 20 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler)

Roasted Rice Powder

¼ cup uncooked jasmine rice

Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Add the rice and dry roast, stirring frequently, until the rice has turned golden brown all over.  Transfer to a spice grinder, clean coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle, and grind to a powder.  Let cool completely before storing in a well-sealed jar.

To assemble a noodle bowl:

Place a pile of noodles in a bowl of your choice (I like a medium-sized bowl with tall sides).  Top with chopped greens, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber slices, sprouts, and herbs.  Add some turkey meatballs.  Pour over nouc cham to taste.  Add a lime wedge.

Serves 4-6 hungry people.

Grilled Lemongrass Chicken

29 Jan

Keen observers may have noticed by this point that I tend to go on extended benders when I become interested in making particular types of food.  Over the summer I made more tarts and galettes than any rational human should consider consuming in the span of a mere 3 months, and not long after that I became enamored with all things related to Mexican food.  A short glance at the most recent archives will more than give away the fact that my heart currently resides on the continent of Asia, bringing us food from India, Japan, and undetermined (but it sure tasted good).

A couple of those recipes are courtesy of Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, a formerly-married couple from Canada (and now Canada and Thailand) who make their living traveling around (mostly through Asia) with their children and researching recipes.  They have written numerous cookbooks (including two books on baking and one book entirely about rice), and I can only imagine that, given their track record of producing incredible recipes and cooking techniques, time will only bring us more of their wonderful work.

This recipe for lemongrass chicken is taken from one of Duguid and Alford’s books with a focus on the cuisines of Southeast Asia, from Myanmar (Burma) to Vietnam.  As is often the case, I was reading this cookbook as I would read a non-cookbook, sitting down and flipping through it page by page, reading everything in detail before moving on.  My best friend once revealed to me that sometimes she liked to sit in bed and read a cookbook before falling asleep, as one might read a novel or a magazine, and I could not stop nodding my head in agreement (needless to say, there is a reason we are best friends).

The recipe originally calls for beef, but I, recent indiscretions aside, am not the biggest fan of beef, so I swapped it out from some chicken breasts.  Say what you want to about everyone’s favorite meat to belittle, but boneless, skinless chicken breasts really work well in this application, subtly sitting in the background so the lemongrass marinade can receive all the glory.  For a dish so simple, it is a huge winner in our household.  We eat it over steamed rice, over thin rice noodles sprinkled with herbs, or sometimes over a pile of fresh and snappy arugula.  I can’t say that I’ll ever possess the gumption to cook an everyday meal like Duguid and Alford are prone to doing (I recall an article in the New Yorker that detailed the couple making a casual meal of homemade crackers, hand-rolled noodles, and roasted wild boar), but with inspiration culled from time spent with many a cookbook, I am at least hoping that, little by little, I’ll be able to take these little bursts of global cooking and transform the bulk of them into regular staples on our table.  This recipe is a good place to start.

Grilled Lemongrass Chicken

From Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and minced

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

1 bird or Serrano chile, finely chopped

2 teaspoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

To prepare the marinade, combine lemongrass, garlic, shallots, and chile in a mortar and pestle or a food processor and pound or blend to a paste (adding just a little water if necessary to make a paste).   Transfer the paste to a bowl, add the fish sauce, lime juice, and water and blend well.  Add sesame oil and stir well.  Set aside.

Cut the meat into very thin slices (less than 1/8-inch) against the grain (this is much easier if the meat is cold).  Duguid recommends you then cut the slices into 1 1/2 –inch lengths, but I kept our slices longer and was quite fond of them that way.  Place the meat in a shallow bowl, add the marinade, and mix well, making sure that the meat is well coated.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.

Prepare a grill, grill pan, or broiler on medium high heat.  Sprinkle the meat with sesame seeds, then grill or broil until cooked through, about 2 minutes for the first side and 1 minute for the second side, depending on how hot your grill or broiler is and how fast the chicken is cooking through.

Serves 4 as part of a meal, more as an appetizer.

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