If you like color, flavor, crunchy things (spring rolls!), noodles, sweet tangy sauce or anything that is fresh and good, these Vietnamese Noodle Bowls are for you. Tossed together in a bowl, these ingredients hit every deliciously addictive note.
Truth is, I’ve been away from blogging much longer these past weeks than I originally planned. A two week break for Christmas turned into three and then four. And while it was unexpected, I think it was more necessary than I’d care to admit. It has been a challenging transition to the new year, with sadness close to home and bewilderment at the larger world in which we live. At a time of year that usually feels so full of hope and fresh starts, I’ve felt adrift and pained by human conflict here in the U.S. and abroad.
I’ve come to no great conclusions about humanity in these past few weeks, but after a bit of hibernation, what I have been feeling is a calling back to the things I love. Family and friends. A daily / hourly / minute-by-minute reminder from Molly and Clara to find delight and wonder in the world. And an inspiration to be in the kitchen. Because what I love about food is that it begs to be shared. Shared via the virtual world in links and clicks and in the real world around kitchen counters and coffee tables and licked from spoons over a steamy stove top pan. It unites rather than divides us. And as we look towards 2017, unity is certainly a thing we can hope for. Unity…and, hopefully too, good food.
The one thing about which I felt certain in this new year was that I wanted to start 2017 off with a favorite. A meal I craved all the years we lived in Bangkok, when I could find it on most every corner and that I was recently reintroduced to in central Kansas (of all places). These particular noodle bowls are actually quite simple. They’re all about layering.
First, crunchy green lettuce.
Second, rice noodles.
Third, fresh vegetables, herbs, sliced spring rolls and lemongrass pork.
Most everything you see here can be done ahead as these bowls are awesome served at room temperature. The spring rolls add this delightful crunch and are a great use for leftovers. Order a couple extra next time you get takeout, buy some at the grocery store’s freezer section (Trader Joe’s are great!) or make baked spring rolls.
And even if you don’t plan to assemble the bowls in their entirety, the lemongrass marinated pork is worth making all on its own.
Here’s to 2017 – good food, positive thoughts, and lots of love.
- 12 oz Pork Chops, thinly sliced (or use pork shoulder)
- 1 stalk Lemongrass, minced (use only the lower root portion of the lemongrass stalk)
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro, chopped
- 3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
- 1½ Tbsp Honey
- 1 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
- ½ cup Water
- 3 Tbsp Sugar
- 2½ Tbsp Lime Juice (sub Rice Vinegar)
- 2-3 Tbsp Fish Sauce
- 1-2 Bird's Eye / Thai Chilis, very thinly sliced
- 6 oz Rice Vermicelli Noodles (I like the extra thin variety, but any will work)
- 4-6 Cooked Spring Rolls, sliced into bite-sized pieces (see note)
- 1 head Green Leaf Lettuce, chopped
- 1 medium Carrot, thin matchsticks
- 1 medium Cucumber, thin matchsticks
- ¼ cup Chopped Peanuts, roasted and unsalted
- 1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro
- 1 small bunch Fresh Mint
- 2 Tbsp Oil, canola, peanut or vegetable
- Marinate pork: Combine all ingredients listed under Lemongrass Pork. Marinate pork for at least 30 minutes and up to a day.
- Make Nuoc Cham: Whisk together water, sugar and lime juice. Add fish sauce and chilis to taste. (Nuoc Cham can be made up to a week ahead.)
- Cook noodles according to package direction (most need to soak in very hot water just until tender).
- Prepare spring rolls, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and peanuts. Tear cilantro and mint leaves off their stalks.
- Just before serving, heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and then, using a slotted spoon transfer pork to heated oil (be careful - it will splatter when it hits the hot oil). Stir-fry pork until it begins to cook on the outside, ~1 minute. Pour remaining marinade over pork and bring to a simmer. Simmer pork in marinade until marinade reduces by at least half. (Because the marinade was exposed to raw pork, it is important that the marinade comes to a bubbling simmer and reduces so that it is fully "cooked" like the pork.) When the pork is cooked through, remove the wok from the heat.
- Assemble bowls with lettuce and then noodles. Top with all remaining ingredients and enjoy with Nuoc Cham on the side or poured over the top. (I like to toss all of the ingredients together in Nuoc Cham before digging in, but some people like to eat each component separate. It's great either way!)
My little helpers have been busy in the kitchen. We’re testing some great, super easy Valentine’s Day recipes to bring you in the next few weeks. It’s great news for these two because nothing makes toddlers happier than things with sprinkles.