Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodles with Spicy Pork

4 09 2011

Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodles with Spicy Pork

It may be September but don’t be fooled by the calendar – it’s still summer and many areas continue to be hot and humid! A refreshing Vietnamese-inspired noodle dish with crisp vegetables, fresh herbs and spicy pork is the perfect dish to cool down with.

A Note About Ingredients

When I first started this site, just over three years ago, my goal was to present recipes with ingredients that were accessible to most people in North America, whether they lived in large cities or rural areas (like most of my family does). At the time, that meant that anything remotely exotic had to be excluded. However, over the past couple of years, even grocery stores in small towns now carry ingredients from around the world (well, not every small town, but the situation is improving in most places!). The ingredients for this recipe should be readily available anywhere with the possible exception of fish sauce (nuoc mam), rice vermicelli (banh pho) and oyster sauce. Any city with a large Asian population will have markets where you can buy these items; in smaller centers check the rice isle and condiment section (some stores also place imported items under ‘Ethnic Foods’).  A Taste of Thai and Thai Kitchen brands are often carried in large supermarket chains. For substitutions, check out the Cook’s Thesaurus: Asian Condiments.

Some Vietnamese and Thai pantry basics: (from left) Thai fish sauce, rice vermicelli (banh pho), Three Crabs brand fish sauce, Thai rice stick noodles, oyster sauce.

Note: This recipe should be suitable for gluten-free diets, however, check the label of the fish sauce and oyster sauce to ensure that no gluten was used in their preparation.

Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodles with Spicy Pork

Makes 4 to 6 servings

This recipe is a little long and requires a bit of prep work but it’s very simple if you take it step-by-step. You will need about three limes total for the juice and garnish. Be sure to use fresh herbs to garnish – they will make the dish come together.

Dressing:

  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce (preferably Three Crabs brand but any kind will do)
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil (canola or safflower work well)
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 3 Tablespoons very finely minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, add all ingredients and whisk until combined. Set aside until ready to use.

Spiced Pork:

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 450 g / 1 lb. lean ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 3 Thai bird chiles, finely minced or 1-1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 3 X 1” pieces lemongrass (eliminate if you can’t find it)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  1. In large skillet, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and use a spatula to break it up. Cook for one minute.
  2. Add the garlic, shallot, chiles and lemongrass pieces. Stir into the pork until thoroughly combined. Cook the mixture until the pork is just past pink, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the lime juice, oyster sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and pepper. Stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for another two minutes. Remove the lemongrass pieces and discard.
  4. Season the pork mixture with salt and set the mixture aside until ready to use.

Noodles and Vegetables:

  • 12 oz. / 340 grams dry rice vermicelli noodles (banh pho – about 3 mm wide – if these aren’t available any kind of flat rice noodle will work)
  • 1 medium English cucumber
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium red pepper
  • 1 cup bean sprouts or ½ cup shredded lettuce
  1. To prepare the noodles: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop in the dry noodles and cook for about 3 minutes or until just tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking. Place in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
  2. To prepare the vegetables: Slice the cucumber into rounds, about   1/8“ thick. Discard the ends.
  3. Peel the carrots and cut into thin matchsticks and cut the red pepper into thin strips.

Garnishes:

  • Fresh cilantro
  • Fresh mint
  • ¼ cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
  • Fried shallot rings (see below)
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Fried Shallot Rings:

  • 1 medium shallot
  • Vegetable oil – enough to cover the bottom of a small saucepan about ½” deep
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Peel the shallot and slice into thin rings. Heat the oil in a small saucepan on high. Add the shallot rings and fry until golden and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure you don’t overcook them or they will become bitter.
  2. Use a slotted spoon to remove the rings from the oil and set them aside on a piece of paper towel. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside until ready to use.

Putting it All Together:

  1. Place the softened noodles in a large bowl. Add the sliced cucumber, carrot and pepper strips and bean sprouts.
  2. Pour in the dressing and toss until everything is coated and thoroughly combined.
  3. Plate the noodles and top with the spiced pork. Garnish with torn fresh coriander and mint, chopped peanuts and fried shallot rings. Serve with lime wedges on the side to squeeze over the dish when served.
  4. The dish can be served warm or at room temperature.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Farmers’ Market Report – July 8th, 2010

8 07 2010

Zucchini blossoms are a rare and delicious summer treat.

Welcome to my first Farmers’ Market Report for Summer 2010!  The markets are at their peak for the next couple of months and this week’s offerings did not disappoint.  In fact, growing conditions in Southern Ontario have been so good this year, there were a few surprises.  Here is a rundown of some of this week’s highlights:

Corn

Corn has arrived at Ontario markets earlier than usual this year.

I was a bit stunned to see the first local corn at the markets already.  Speaking with some farmers, I learned that’s about two weeks earlier than normal this year.  I bought six ears to experiment with, crossing my fingers the quality was going to be decent. The ears were on the small side but the kernels were very tender.  It wasn’t as flavourful as I’d hoped but because it’s so early, I’m sure later harvests will be sweeter. My favourite way to eat corn is boiled, rolled in butter and then topped with salt and pepper. However, if you’re looking for something more elegant, try my recipe for Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.

Peaches

Like corn, peaches are also early this year.  I didn’t buy any this week but we’ve been having a heat wave so hopefully that bodes well for upcoming weeks (peaches love hot, dry weather).  Peach Tiramisu is an elegant, no-bake dessert that showcases fresh peaches beautifully.

Apricots

Apricots were abundant at this week's market.

I often find raw apricots kind of bland with a bit of a mealy texture but the ones I bought today were pretty tasty.  They had a nice sweet-tartness to them so I ate a few out of hand.  I chose ones on the smaller side but the farmers were selling larger ones as well.  Apricots are ideal for both sweet and savoury recipes; why not make some Spicy Apricot Glazed Grilled Shrimp?

Herbs

Fresh herbs were in abundance this week including basil, mint and dill.  I keep an herb pot during the summer for day-to-day herbs but if I decide to do any large batch pickling or pesto, I’ll head to the farmer’s market to buy large amounts at a good price. To make use of summer herbs, check out my recipes for Pesto Sauce and White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs.

Summer Squash

Pattypan squash and baby zucchini.

I have a feeling that zucchini are going to take over many gardens this summer, judging by the number and size of them at this week’s market.  Many of the yellow and green zucchini on display were already getting a little big for my taste (smaller ones tend to be less watery and are better for most recipes).  Pattypan squash were also abundant this week. You can make the most of summer squash by making Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil or a moist Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I was also excited to find zucchini blossoms at a local grocer this week.  They are fragile and rare but will occasionally turn up at local markets.  To use them, try my recipes for Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms.

I discovered another summer squash this week that I was not familiar with: vegetable marrow (see photo below).  I asked the farmer about them and learned that they are very similar to zucchini and are often stuffed with a ground meat mixture.  It seems to be a popular vegetable in England.  You can find a recipe for stuffed vegetable marrow here: Recipe for Stuffed Marrow with Sausage Meat.

Vegetable marrow are similar to zucchini and are delicious stuffed.

Cucumbers

My husband loves cucumbers and often eats sliced cukes with a dash of salt and pepper as a snack.  They also add a fresh note to sandwiches and salads.  A crisp Asian Summer Slaw makes a great no-cook dinner.  Some of the stalls were selling dill alongside baby cucumbers – one-stop shopping for pickle makers.  Pick up some smoked salmon to make a Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad that is accented with fresh dill.

Cherries

Both sweet and sour Ontario cherries were abundant this week.  While sweet cherries are imported from the U.S. each spring, sour ones are harder to find.  My grandmother had a sour cherry tree in her yard so they were the only kind we ever had when I was growing up.  They’re not very good raw but once cooked and sweetened, they have a tartness that is addictive.  For a classic sour cherry pie recipe, check out this one from Epicurious.com: Classic Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust.  If you have sweet cherries, why not make a Cherry Clafouti with Almonds or a simple Cherry Almond Bread?

Asparagus

I was told that this is probably the last week for asparagus this year.  Usually by the end of the season, asparagus is starting to look tired but not this year.  The stalks were thick, robust and vibrant.  This was an exceptional year for asparagus and I enjoyed it in a variety of dishes.  Check out the Asparagus Archives for some delicious ideas ranging from Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms to a rich and decadent Roasted Asparagus Lasagna.

Until next week,

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Asian Summer Slaw

7 07 2010

Beat the heat with a refreshing salad of seasonal vegetables and an Asian-style dressing.

We’re having a major heat wave in Southern Ontario, with high temperatures and humidity not seen here since 2007.  While this is good for growing things such as peaches, tomatoes and grapes, it can be a challenge when trying to decide what to eat for dinner each night.  No one wants to run a hot oven when the temperature is soaring so we look for things that are fresh and cooling.

So what should we eat?  Salads, of course!  Salads are a great option at the peak of summer because a lot of local produce is now available at the market.  A vibrant salad packed with fresh vegetables and lightly tossed with an Asian-inspired dressing is the perfect dish for dinner. It pairs well with grilled meats and rice dishes or you can add some grilled shrimp or chicken to make it a substantial main dish on its own. Cooked whole-wheat spaghettini or chow mein noodles would also be a nice addition.

The prep work for this salad takes a bit of time but none of it is difficult.  You could use bagged shredded coleslaw mix in place of chopping the cabbage and carrots. The dressing can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.  However, don’t dress the salad too far in advance or it will get soggy and limp.

Asian Summer Slaw

Makes 4 to 6 side dish servings (can be made as a main course as well, see above)

(VEGETARIAN)

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup Hellman’s/Best Foods style light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, if you prefer a bit of heat)
  1. In a small bowl, add all ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Salad:

  • 3/4 cup snow peas (about 15), trimmed
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 small or 1/2 a large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 4 green onions, chopped (white and light green parts – save the dark green tops for garnish)
  • 1 cup sliced cucumbers – cut about 1/4″ thick (about 1/2 a large cuke)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 cups shredded Napa or green cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  1. To blanch snow peas: Prepare a bowl of cold water and add a few ice cubes. Set aside.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add snow peas and cook for 1 minute.  Drain peas and plunge them immediately into the ice water to halt cooking.  Drain and dry them once they cool and add to a large salad bowl.
  2. Add the red pepper strips, carrot, green onion, cucumber, bean sprouts and cabbage to the bowl.  Use salad forks (or spoons) to toss all ingredients until combined.  Add dressing to the salad a little at a time and stir to coat the vegetables, making sure you don’t overdress the salad (you probably won’t use all of the dressing. Extra dressing can be kept covered in the fridge for a couple of days).  Stir in sesame seeds and garnish with green onion slices.
  3. Serve as a side dish or add some protein and noodles as described above.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

29 08 2008

Smoked salmon, cucumber and fresh dill make a refreshing light lunch or first course on hot summer days. Although summer is winding down, cucumbers and dill are abundant right now so give it a try on the next warm day.  The cucumber salad is also a great side dish to grilled or roasted salmon.

Crème fraîche is a thick, aged cream.  Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to find.  If you can’t get it for this recipe, you can used drained, plain yogurt or sour cream but adjust the seasonings because the flavour will not be quite the same.   It’s also possible to make your own. You can check out this link for more information on substitutions:

Crème Fraîche Substitute

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

The crème fraîche dressing can be made in advance but do not assemble the salad until just before serving because the cucumbers will start to give off liquid resulting in a soggy salad.

Makes 4 first course servings

  • About 5 oz. (140 g) smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (see note above for substitutions)
  • 2 Tablespoons shallot, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large English (Burpless) cucumber, cut into slices about 1/4″ thick (about 2-1/2 cups)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine  crème fraîche, chopped shallot, cider vinegar, sugar salt and chopped dill.  Stir to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use.  
  2. Just before serving, mix the cucumbers with the crème fraîche dressing and toss to coat.  Top with smoked salmon and garnish with fresh dill.  Can be served family-style or plated individually.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad with fresh dill garnish