Wednesday, July 18, 2012

At Home: Vietnamese Dinner

With this super steamy hot weather we’ve been having, Keith wanted something refreshing and light for dinner. He had a nice pork loin marinating and we thought we could use it to make bánh mì. Bánh mì is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread. Bread, or more specifically the baguette, was introduced by the French during its colonial period. The bread most commonly found in Vietnam is single serve and resembles a torpedo, therefore the term bánh mì is synonymous with this type of bread. See our interpretation of a Vietnamese dinner...At Home.

Bánh mì sandwiches include meat or soy fillings such as grilled pork, sausage, grilled chicken, and tofu. Accompanying vegetables include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled vegetables, known as do chua, in shredded form. While it can be made of any type of vegetable, do chua usually is pickled carrots and daikon. I didn’t have any daikon on hand, so we used some pre-packaged broccoli slaw that I found at the store instead. We also picked up a nice French baguette and some jalapeno peppers for extra kick. You can layer anything on your sandwich though – cucumber, sliced radishes, bean sprouts, whatever you like! Keith also made a citrusy cilantro-lime mayo to spread on the bread for another level of flavor. For added spice and tang, squirt some sriracha sauce on it too.

Vietnamese Pickled Vegetables (Do Chua)
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup carrots, thinly sliced like matchsticks
  • 1 cup daikon, or other vegetable thinly sliced

- Put vinegar, sugar and salt into a large bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved.
- Add vegetables and toss to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to several hours before serving.

The recipe is super-simple and should be adjusted depending on the size of your vegetables. The key is to julienne the vegetables into matchstick size pieces, as grating them just makes them a bit too mushy. Since they're pickled, they'll keep for months and months in the fridge. So don't worry if you don't eat it all at once. 

Bánh mì (makes 2 sandwiches)
  • 1 French baguette
  • Grilled marinated pork, sliced in chunks
  • Mayonnaise, as needed
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro sprigs
  • ¼ medium English cucumber, cut lengthwise into 4 slices
  • ½ cup pickled vegetables
  • 1 jalapeno, cut into slices
  • sriracha, to taste, optional
  • 1 lime

- Marinate and grill the pork. Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside covered with foil to keep warm.
- Slice into pieces, and then cube or chunk to smaller pieces as desired. 
- Slice the baguettes open lengthwise, and toast for 3 minutes until hot and crusty. 
- Slather the insides with mayonnaise. (Optional: squirt sriracha sauce too.) 
- Layer on the pickled vegetables, cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapenos. 
- Top with the seasoned pork and finish with a squirt of lime juice on top.
- Serve immediately. 

As you can see from the pictures, I forgot the cucumber in our sandwiches! But, I liked our twist on combining the cilantro and mayo for the spread. Also, the extra lime juice is a must! It just brightens everything up and added extra zing to our lime marinated pork. Next time we make this, I think I will ask Keith to cut the pork pieces a little smaller and definitely will not forget the crunchy cucumbers. Nevertheless, the sandwiches were delicious and using the chewy French baguette was key.

To go along with these Vietnamese sandwiches, I also made summer rolls also known as gỏi cuốn. In Vietnam, these rice paper-wrapped salad rolls are street food, often served with a bean dipping sauce. Over here, they're a light appetizer accompanied by a sweet-sour-spicy sauce. Either way, they make a refreshing start to a summer meal. The filling commonly consists of pork, shrimp, herbs, cellophane noodles, and other ingredients wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper. They are served at room temperature, and are not deep fried. Again, these rolls are customizable, so fill them with other vegetables or meat to your liking. I used shrimp, avocado, and left over carrots and broccoli slaw from our sandwiches. My mom likes to add crab, mushrooms, red peppers, cucumber, and whatever else she has fresh on hand.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)
  • ½ cup cooked cellophane noodles
  • ½  cup carrot, cut into matchstick size pieces
  • ½ cup bean sprouts or sliced cucumber, or other vegetable
  • 1 avocado, sliced lengthwise
  • ¼ cup chopped mint, basil or cilantro, optional
  • 8 cooked peeled and deveined large shrimp, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 6 (8-inch) round sheets rice paper

- First, prepare all the filling ingredients and line up ready for an assembly line.
- Add hot water to a large, shallow dish to a depth of 1 inch. Place 1 rice paper sheet in dish; let stand 30 seconds or just until soft.
- Place sheet on a flat surface. Arrange noodles in the center of sheet, leaving a 1-inch border.
- Layer with vegetables and 3 shrimp halves.
- Fold bottom of rice paper over filling, then fold in ends and roll like a burrito into a tight cylinder.
- Gently press seam to seal.
- Place roll, seam side down, on a serving platter (cover to keep from drying).
- Repeat procedure with remaining shrimp, veggies, and rice paper sheets.
- Serve with dipping sauce.

Again, I forgot the noodles! The delicate rice paper wrappers used in these rolls can be a little tricky to work with, so have a few extra on hand for practice. You'll want to soak the rounds just long enough to make them pliable. If they're limp and sticky, you've soaked them too long. Dip into peanut sauce, spicy sriracha, or a mix of soy sauce and fish sauce. And don’t forget my tip of adding a squirt of lime to make all the ingredients pop. What other easy and light meals are you making this summer?

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