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Summer is in full swing, and here in New York City at least, that means swampy weather, sweaty commutes to and from work, and very little desire on the part of this food blogger to stand over the stove for an extended period of time. Enter: This Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Chicken.
A Summery Meal with Minimal Stove Time!
It’s easy to understand why one would look for this refreshing, tasty Vietnamese rice noodle salad on a hot swampy day, whether you’re on the streets of Vietnam or in your stuffy city apartment.
The rice noodles cook in no time at all, and the only other stove task you need to do is searing a few chicken thighs, which can be done in less than 10 minutes.
The rest of the ingredients are served raw–crunchy bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, and herbs, all smothered in that ubiquitous and delicious Vietnamese condiment, nuoc cham.
If you’re unfamiliar with nuoc cham, it’s a rather thin sauce with salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. Fish sauce, lime juice/vinegar, garlic, sugar, and chili are combined with a bit of water, and It. Is. Delicious.
It’s used as a dipping sauce or condiment, but in this situation, you can think of it as your dressing for this Vietnamese noodle salad.
So if the summer heat is getting you down, this Vietnamese rice noodle salad recipe is guaranteed to perk you back up. Here’s how to make it!
In a medium bowl, combine 4 chicken thighs with all the marinade ingredients (garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and vegetable oil), and set aside for 30 mins to an hour while you prepare the other salad ingredients.
For the chicken & marinade:
For the nuoc cham sauce:
To assemble the bowls:
TheWoksofLife.com is written and produced for informational purposes only. While we do our best to provide nutritional information as a general guideline to our readers, we are not certified nutritionists, and the values provided should be considered estimates. Factors such as brands purchased, natural variations in fresh ingredients, etc. will change the nutritional information in any recipe. Various online calculators also provide different results, depending on their sources. To obtain accurate nutritional information for a recipe, use your preferred nutrition calculator to determine nutritional information with the actual ingredients and quantities used.
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken thighs with your marinade ingredients, and set aside for 30 mins to an hour while you prepare the other salad ingredients.
Combine all the nuoc cham ingredients and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved into the sauce. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients if desired.
Boil the rice vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Set aside in a colander.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or frying pan over medium high heat. You could also heat a grill pan or grill for this. Sear the chicken for about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Set aside on a plate.
To assemble the salad, combine the rice noodles with bean sprouts, julienned carrots and cucumber, romaine lettuce, mint, and cilantro. Slice the chicken thighs and add to the salad. Serve with your nuoc cham sauce.
Nuoc Cham Chicken With Noodle Salad
Combine sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, chilli, garlic and ginger in a large jug. Stir until sugar dissolves. Reserve 1/2 cup mixture for dressing. Transfer remaining mixture to a shallow glass or ceramic dish.
Place chicken, skin-side down, on a chopping board. Cut down either side of bone (this ensures even cooking), being careful not to cut through skin. Add to lime mixture in dish. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (if time permits).
Drizzle 2 teaspoons of oil on a barbecue hotplate. Heat over medium heat. Place chicken on barbecue, skin-side down. Cook for 20 minutes, turning and basting with any remaining marinade, until browned and cooked through.
Meanwhile, make Noodle salad: Place noodles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water. Stand for 5 minutes or until tender. Using a fork, separate noodles. Drain. Rinse under cold water. Transfer to a large bowl. Using kitchen scissors, cut noodles into 5cm lengths.
Add carrot, cucumber, mint, coriander, sprouts, reserved dressing and remaining oil. Toss gently to combine. Serve chicken with noodle salad and lime wedges.
How To Make Bún Chả (Recipe Of Vietnamese Grilled Pork With Rice Vermicelli Noodles)
I feel like upon speaking about Vietnamese food and rice noodles, everyone would mention ‘phở’. But the world of Vietnamese culinary culture offers us so much more ways of devouring many types of different noodles (do check out our to read further on different types of noodles available in Vietnam). If ‘phở’ is known for a bowl of flat rice noodles with beef or chicken broth, ‘ bún chả’ is round rice noodles served with a bowl of dipping sauce with grilled pork, pickles and greens. If you have been following the news of President Obama’s trip in Vietnam, you must have seen ‘Obama eating bún chả‘ – and this is exactly the recipe you need to recreate one of the most iconic street food dishes in Hanoi.
Although originally a street food specialty, to me there is nothing that can beat my mom’s homemade bún chả. On a weekend that was quite special, she would get a small charcoal stove and grill the meat in the small patio in front of our house, and the whole street would be filled with a mouth-watering smell. I would, as a child, cheekily sneak a hot piece of meat freshly out of the stove, and that would always be the best piece of the whole batch. The pork marinade and the dipping sauce in this recipe is adopted from my family favourite, and I hope that it will soon become your favourite as well !
(GRILLED PORK, RICE VERMICELLI NOODLES IN SWEET & SOUR DIPPING SAUCE)
A. Vietnamese Caramel Sauce B. Grilled Pork
450 grams (1 lb.) pork shoulder or pork belly (choose a fatty piece to prevent the meat from drying out while being grilled)
450 grams (1 lb.) minced pork (similarly, choose minced pork with at least 10% fat)
50 grams shallots (about 6 – 8 shallots)
15 grams garlic (3 – 5 cloves)
C. Side Pickles
400 grams green papaya, carrots, kohlrabi
25 grams (2 tbsp) sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) rice vinegar or lemon juice
Fresh herbs to serve: coriander, perilla, lettuce, Vietnamese balm, …
D. Dipping sauce and Noodles
Dipping sauce (nước chấm in Vietnamese) is an essential condiment in Vietnamese cuisine, and usually consists of fish sauce, sugar, lime juice/lemon juice/rice vinegar, water and minced garlic and chilli to taste. My preferred ratio for a perfect nước chấm bún chả is 1 sugar : 2/3 acid : 1 fish sauce : 7 water.
25 grams (1.5 tbsp) sugar
15 – 18 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice/rice vinegar
175 ml (3/4 cup) water
15 – 20 ml (1 – 1.5 tbsp) fish sauce
Garlic, chilli, black pepper – to taste
1.5 kg fresh rice vermicelli noodles or 0.5 kg dried rice vermicelli noodles
A detailed recipe with all the specific notes is available on Savoury Days’ YouTube Channel (subscribe to get all the newly uploaded recipes) in both English and Vietnamese. Check it out at this link or the video right below. Don’t forget to turn on HD setting for best quality.
The steps are quite simple and straightforward in the video. In short, the whole procedure of making bun cha can be summarised in five main steps as follows:
marinating the meat
making the pickles and the dipping sauce
grilling the meat
cooking dried vermicelli noodles
Therefore, in stead of listing the major steps of the method as usual, in the following section, I will note down some key points that will help you make the best and most authentic bún chả.
A. Picking the Cut, Marinating and Grilling the Meat:
– It is best to choose a fatty cut of pork, either pork belly or pork shoulder, to prevent the meat from drying while being grilled. I prefer pork shoulder because it is relatively leaner than pork belly, and the melted pork shoulder fat has a crunchy texture and savoury buttery flavour – which is rather fun to devour.
– There are two types of grilled meat in a traditional bún chả: grilled pork patties ( chả băm) and grilled pork slices ( chả miếng). Grilled pork patties are what distinguish bún chả (from Hanoi) from bún thịt nướng (from Central and Southern Vietnam), both of which consist of rice vermicelli noodles served with grilled pork.
– Another difference between the two regional dishes is that the pork marinade in bún chả does not have lemongrass, sesame seeds or sesame oil like the one in bún thịt nướng (if you would like to know how to make the grilled pork for bún thịt nướng, check out this previous recipe of mine). This is because Hanoi – situated in the North of Vietnam – has a milder tropical climate than the Central and Southern region, and therefore lemongrass – a tropical plant – is not a common ingredient in Hanoi’s culinary culture.
– Vietnamese caramel sauce (nước màu) is NOT like the sweet caramel sauce served with desserts, but is rather used as a food colouring to give the meat in savoury dishes a golden brown colour. It is really easy to make – simply boil sugar and water together. However, you can substitute Vietnamese caramel sauce with golden syrup or honey, or even the homemade golden syrup leftover from making mooncakes! The sugar content in all of the above will caramelise while you grill the meat, giving the pork not only a scrumptious chargrilled colour but also a smoky sweet caramel-like flavour. Just note that if you are using honey, the meat will burn more easily (since honey has a ‘purer’ sugar content than cooked caramel sauce or golden syrup), therefore, keep an eye on your grill pan.
– The pork is best grilled over charcoal fire – charcoal grilled pork has a far superior smoky flavour to oven grilled one. If you are using the oven, put the meat over a wired rack or a pizza pan – surfaces that allow the meat itself to be exposed to the heat from the top and the bottom. This will prevent the pork from being too dry, the grilled meat will be more tender as the heat is distributed evenly throughout.
– Pickles in bún chả (and many other dishes such as bún thịt nướng, or bánh xèo – crispy Vietnamese pancakes) are usually made of thinly sliced green papayas and carrots. Cucumbers or kohlrabies are also great substitute for green papayas, and the contrast between the green and the bright orange colour of the pickles makes your dish more eye-catching and appealing.
– Pickles are also made fresh rather than preserved for a long time. When you make the fresh pickles, it is important to add sugar first rather than salt, as it will help the pickles be more crunchy. Adding salt will immediately draw out the moisture from the vegetables and make them a bit tough to chew.
C. Boiling the Rice Vermicelli:
– If you have fresh rice vermicelli – perfect. You just need to poach it through hot water just before serving, so that the rice vermicelli will soften and soak up the dipping sauce better.
– If you don’t live in Vietnam or near a big Asian market, it is more likely that you will end up with dried rice vermicelli. Although some packages say that the noodles can be soaked in hot water before serving, I find that the noodles do not expand properly even after being soaked for a long time, and thus would prefer to boil them in a pot of hot water. You can also poach the noodles through hot water again just before serving.
D. Making nước chấm – dipping sauce:
– The salt content of fish sauce varies from different types, so there is no fixed ratio to make nước chấm.
– What I would recommend is to mix sugar, lemon juice and water together first, taste it to make sure you are happy with the lemon juice. Then, gradually add fish sauce to taste. Tasting as you go along rather than dumping all the ingredients in at once will help you identify easily which flavour component (sweet, sour, savoury, …) is lacking.
– When added into nước chấm, the garlic (and chilli) should float on the surface – it looks more visually appealing rather than chunks of garlics sinking at the bottom. Here are a few tips to achieve this:
Mince the garlic very finely, but don’t crush it. The dipping sauce should be warm when you add in the garlic.
Soak the garlic in a little bit of vinegar and sugar before adding it into the dipping sauce.
Cookbook:rice Noodle And Beef Soup Of Hue (Bún Bò Huế)
Bún bò Huế is a popular Vietnamese soup noodle dish which originated in the old imperial capital of Huế.
Ingredients for broth:
1 kg beef shank with cartilage – sliced into 2mm thick pieces. Ask your butcher. Chop the shank slices into various shapes of about 4cm x 4cm.
2 medium sized pigs feet – fresh, cut into 1 cm pieces. Discard the feet themselves
4 tablespoons Huế shrimp paste
1 small onion – finely chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass – chopped into 5-inch pieces
1 kg rice noodles – a noodle resembling spaghetti No 5. is preferred
Red pigment powder – non-spicy for colouring
1 bunch of cilantro – stems discarded and leaves chopped
1 bunch of Italian (flat leaf) parsley – stems discarded and leaves chopped
1 medium onion – finely chopped
A large stockpot – 8-10 litres
A large mixing bowl – 2.5 litres
A small frying pan
Start by preparing the shrimp paste. In a large bowl, 2.5 litres, add shrimp paste and slowly pour in cold water while vigorously stirring the paste. Keep adding water and stirring until you’ve almost reached the rim of the bowl. Don’t let it spill over. Let the paste mixture rest in the bowl for 1.5 hours, to allow the mixture to settle.
Note: Shrimp paste is essential to this dish and cannot be considered Bún bò Huế without it. Different types of shrimp paste can be found all over Vietnam. Some are of better quality than others. Some purists believe that only Huế shrimp paste is acceptable for this dish as it is smoother and of superior quality than other pastes, which can have trace amounts of sand in them. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find outside of Vietnam, so an “inferior” paste may be substituted.
Sauté the small onion in 3 tbsp of oil until golden brown. In your stockpot, combine the cooked onion and pigs feet with 2 litres of water. Slowly bring it to the boil over medium heat. Add lemongrass and SLOWLY and CAREFULLY pour in the shrimp paste mixture making sure to only add the clear liquid not the silt that has settled at the bottom of the bowl. To the residual shrimp paste, add another litre of water and stir. Again, wait until the mixture has settled before adding it into the stockpot. Simmer the stock for 20 minutes.
Add the beef and occasionally skim the broth to ensure you get a nice clear liquid. Cook for another 20 minutes, checking the beef to be sure it’s not overcooked. Add fish sauce and sugar to taste to achieve a nice balance between salty and sweet.
While the broth is cooking, heat some oil in a pan and add the red pigment. Cook until the pigment is blended with the oil. Add to the stock. Repeat the process with the chilli powder.
Combine chopped parsley and cilantro leaves with the uncooked medium onion.
If you are using fresh noodles, simply add boiling water to heat them up. If you’re using dried noodles, soak them in boiling water until they are soft then dip in cold water to stop the cooking process. Do not over cook them or you’ll have mush. Dried noodles have already been cooked.
In a large soup bowl, place a handful of noodles, top with a handful of the parsley/cilantro/onion mixture, and ladle on generous amounts of steaming hot broth, ensuring there are several pieces of beef and pork.
You can add a squeeze of lime and chopped fresh chillies if you like your food extra spicy. It is also common to add a small dollop of shrimp paste to the soup, but those unfamiliar with the taste may not like it.
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