Saturday, July 6, 2013

Vietnamese Pork & Vermicelli Bowl

There are lots of Vietnamese stores and restaurants in my neighborhood.  On lazy days I do all my shopping at Truong Thinh, the Vietnamese market around the corner, and pick up a banh mi for lunch. One of my favorite places to eat is Pho Hoa, where I love to order the House Special Vermicelli Plate (number 90 in case you're going--Pho Hoa is a chain and there might be one near you!).  It comes with a bunch of delicious things, and rice paper wraps so you can make your own spring rolls.  The first time I ordered it, the waiter brought the rice paper wraps first and Ben and I tried to take a bite of them.  No dice.  They are dry like paper until you soak them in hot water.  Oops.

Anyway, the house special plate comes with those wraps (and a big bowl of hot water to soften them) and vermicelli, herbs and vegetables topped with grilled pork, meatballs, a spring roll, and shrimp & sugarcane.  It also comes with fish sauce on the side.  It's SO good, and the grilled pork is my favorite.  I don't know what they do to it.

This dish is my attempt to recreate that dinner at home.  I have to tell you, it's really good, but it's not QUITE the same flavor I get at the restaurant.  You should still make it, though.  It's super yummy and healthy and beautiful (and lots of fun to photograph, if you're into that).  It has a lot of components, but almost all of them can easily be made in advance.  When it's time to eat, just cook the pork and put together your bowl!

Ingredients (serves 4; adapted from The Culinary Chronicles):

For the pork:

5 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 scallions, sliced
4 inch piece of lemongrass, finely minced
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 to 1 pound pork tenderloin, sliced thinly

For the quick-pickled carrots and cucumbers:

1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks
4 tablespoons rice vinegar (no sugar or salt added)
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt

For the nuoc cham sauce:

Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons warm water
1/2 teaspoon chili paste

For the scallion oil:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced scallions (3-4 scallions)

For serving:

8 ounces vermicelli, cooked according to package directions
1 head of Boston lettuce, leaves separated
Bunch of cilantro
Fresh bean sprouts (I bought them and forgot to get them out!)
Crushed roasted peanuts

To prepare the pork, mix all the ingredients for the marinade together and toss with the pork.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before cooking.

To make the quick-pickled vegetables, pour the vinegar, sugar, and salt over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.  If you make them more than a couple of hours in advance, store them in the fridge.

For the nuoc cham sauce, mix all ingredients together.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

For the scallion oil, heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat.  When it's hot, add the scallions and cook until wilted but still bright green, about three minutes.  Pour off the scallions and most of the oil and set aside.

Take the pork out of the fridge about ten minutes before you want to cook it.  Prepare the grill, or heat up the same skillet you used for the scallion oil over medium high heat.  Cook the pork, with a little marinade spooned on top, on both sides until browned and cooked through.  Brush cooked pork with the scallion oil before serving.

To serve, line a plate or bowl with lettuce leaves and vermicelli.  Top with pickled vegetables, bean sprouts, pork, and roasted peanuts.  Serve with nuoc cham sauce on the side.


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