Our Mom was THE BEST cook…..seriously. She had a knack of creating such delicious flavors out of the most modest ingredients. And like most Vietnamese mothers, along side your serving of dinner, you would get several quick-tongue remarks and sharp attitude.
Lately, I have been finding myself missing my Mom a lot. And when those times come, I tend to gravitate towards recreating dishes and flavors that came out of her kitchen. Truth be told, most of my “mom-meal knock offs” aren’t 100% authentic. But that sure isn’t do to lack of trying! She was so quick maneuvering around the kitchen–throwing a little of bit of this and a little bit of that into pans that we could never keep up. Let’s not even begin to get into how she never measured!
So, on one recent weekend, I found myself recreating a meal that we often had growing up– Bún Thịt Nướng or Vietnamese Grilled Pork over Vermicelli Noodles. It’s not a dish that I eat (or more like “order“) often these days but when I do get the chance to enjoy it, I am reminded of how it really is a great depiction of Vietnamese cuisine. An extremely savory and mutli-layered flavor protein, combined with tons of fresh herbs, pickled veggies, cold noodles, various textures, and all enhanced by a spicy nước chấm (dipping sauce). And like many Vietnamese dishes, Bún Thịt Nướng is not difficult to make but it does take some time preparing as there are many steps and components to the dish.
I spend most of the time below describing steps to preparing the pork so if you have any questions, about the condiments in particular, feel free to shoot me an email. Since I was too lazy to pull out the grill, I ended up using my tried and true All-Clad grill pan to cook the pork. It worked fairly nicely but if you want the true authentic flavor, I’d recommend using an outdoor grill with with one of those wire mesh grilling baskets. You can pick one up for really cheap at most Asian grocery stores. You can’t beat the slightly charred flavor produced by cooking it that way. Plus, if you’re ever in Việt Nam, you’ll see that it’s the way my peeps do it.
I was quite pleased with the final dish. The warm grilled meat over the cold veggies and noodles are a perfect pairing–particular for warm summer days. And although I know it wasn’t exactly like Mom’s, I am sure she would have been quite proud.
Until next time Friends……Always cook with your heart
Bún Thịt Nướng
Serves approximately 4-5
Thịt Nướng (Pork)
2 Tablespoons Fresh Garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons Shallots, minced
3 Tablespoons Lemongrass, very finely minced (sả bằm)
2 Green Onions, chopped
3 Tablespoons Cilantro, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce (nước mắm)
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Pound Pork Shoulder, sliced into 2-3 inch strips
1 Package Vermicelli Noodles, prepared according to package directions
1.5 Cups Slightly Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers*
2 Cups Fresh Lettuce, roughly chiffonade
1.5 Cups Fresh Bean Sprouts
1 Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves
½ Cup Roasted Peanuts, crushed
½ Cup Green Onion infused Oil (hành mơ)**
1½ Cups Dipping Sauce (nước chấm)***
Thịt Nướng (Pork): In a large bowl, add honey, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Mix until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients to combine. Add pork and mix to ensure that the meat has been thoroughly covered. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
While pork is marinating, prepare the accouterments:
*Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers: Cut carrots and cucumbers into small matchsticks and place in a small bowl. Cover them with Rice Wine Vinegar and a pinch of Sugar.
*Scallion Oil (hành mơ): In a sauté pan, slowly heat ¼ cup of canola oil. Add ½ cup chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.
*Dipping Sauce (nước chấm): Combine ½ Cup Fish Sauce, ½ Cup Sugar, ½ Cup Fresh Lime Juice, ¼ Cup Warm Water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 Teaspoon Chili Paste. Adjust amounts to desired to taste.
Remove pork from the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before grilling to take the chill off the meat. Heat your grill pan to medium-high and lightly cover with cooking spray (or prepare outdoor grill). Grill meat for approximately 1-2 minutes on each side until browned. Since the meat is thin, it does not take long to cook.
To Assemble: In a bowl, place the cooked vermicelli noodles, lettuce and bean sprouts. Plate the warm grilled pork on top of the bowl, alongside with the pickled veggies and cilantro. Brush the meat with the scallion oil and sprinkle with the crushed peanuts. Serve with your preferred amount of nước chấm.