This Easter morning I went to our local farmer’s market to get produce for the week. While I was there, I passed some beautiful, fresh Thai basil that caught my interest.. and I began to envision a meal centered around the basil. I saw a Vietnamese noodle salad… with fresh basil served on the side… enjoyed on our balcony for a light, refreshing brunch. So, with my salad in mind, I bought some beautiful organic baby daikon and baby carrots, as well as some gorgeous purple scallions. Then I went home and began researching. What I was picturing was a little something like “Bun thit nuong (BÃºn thá»‹t nÆ°á»›ng): One of the more popular (and simple) Vietnamese dishes, basically a combination vermicelli plate, a kind of vermicelli counterpart to CÆ¡m táº¥m. Grilled pork (often shredded) and vermicelli noodles over a bed of greens (salad and sliced cucumber), herbs and bean sprouts. Also often include a few chopped up egg rolls, spring onions, and shrimp. Served with roasted peanuts on top and a small bowl of NÆ°á»›c cháº¥m.” (source: Wikipedia) I have only discovered Vietnamese food fairly recently, due to the high volume of international restaurants in the Bay Area. Pho restaurants are common, and occasionally offer rice noodle dishes with seafood that may be gluten free. Pho itself may also be gluten free, but I prefer not to eat beef, so I haven’t tried it. While true vegetarian dishes seem rare in many Vietnamese restaurants, I thought it would be fun to make a dish that could either be vegetarian or incorporate some seafood (in the form of fish stock), so I compared recipes to come up with my own take on Bun Thit Nuong. Once I assembled the ingredients, we sat on our balcony and enjoyed the afternoon, munching on the crisp Thai basil and crunchy vegetables with rice noodles in a light broth. It might not have been a conventional Easter feast- but it was refreshing and the flavors seemed appropriate to the bright spring day.
Vietnamese Rice-Noodle Salad
5 cloves garlic
1 cup loosely packed chopped thai basil or cilantro
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tbsp fish sauce (or more, to taste- optional)
1 (12 ounce) package dried rice noodles
2 carrots, julienned
1 cucumber, cut into sticks
4 radishes, sliced
1/2 block firm tofu, pressed, cut into strips and fried
1 cup vegetables of choice sauteed in oil and seasonings.
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
4 leaves lettuce
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
4 sprigs fresh mint
1 cup vegetable broth or 1 cup broth made from Thai kitchen garlic seasoning and oil packet prepared without noodles.
Mince the garlic with the fresh herbs and the minced chilies. Combine with lime juice, fish sauce, sugar; stir and let sauce sit for 5 minutes.
Prepare rice noodles by boiling for 2 or 3 minutes and rinsing them in cool water and drain.
Prepare vegetables and arrange on plate. When ready, take bowl and add noodles. Add broth to taste and combine vegetables and toppings of choice. Garnish with fresh mint and fresh Thai basil and peanuts.
Cucumber and Radish Salad (Sunomono)
1 small cucumber, peeled
5 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Slice radishes and cucumber into thin slices. Add teaspoon of salt to the sliced cucumber and radishes and wait 5-10 minutes. Rinse off the salt and drain the water through a strainer. Combine the vinegar and sugar and pour it over the cucumber and radishes. Leave for at least fifteen minutes.
Best the same day or within a few hours of making.