The last few days have really felt like summer around here, temperatures in the nineties, sweat pouring uncontrollably from your brow from the suffocating humidity and crazy, intense storms for at least an hour a day that leave the whole city feeling an uncomfortably moist balminess.
Today was perfectly gorgeous, though. Warm, without being too hot and sunny to boot. Days like today call for a cold dish but not just any boring old salad, no, that wouldn’t do. So I turned to Vietnam for some inspiration and made a cold noodle salad using bean thread cellophane noodles, summer vegetables, fresh herbs, peanuts, pork marinated in lemongrass and tossed in a bright, salty, funky fish sauce based dressing. It was just the excitement that today both needed and deserved ( I spent the rest of it packing my life into boxes! )
Vietnamese Inspired Cold Noodle Salad with Cucumber, Zucchini, Cabbage and Yellow Squash with Lemongrass Pork, Fried Shallots and Peanuts
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (vegetable, canola, peanut)
- juice of one lime
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 pound pork loin, very thinly sliced
- 1 package (3.75 ounce) Bean Thread Cellophane Noodles (available in the Asian aisles at Wegmans)
- 1/2 cup each Plowbreak Farm cucumber, green cabbage, zucchini and yellow squash, julienned
- roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
- Plowbreak Farm Basil and Cilantro
- 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup neutral oil
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (chili garlic sauce)
- 3 tablespoons water
In a five-ounce ball jar, add the brown sugar, two tablespoons of lime juice, fish sauce, sambal and water. Shake until the sugar dissolves and set aside. If you don’t have a five ounce ball jar, just whisk all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.
In a gallon sized ziploc bag, add the thinly sliced pork loin, about 1 teaspoon of salt, juice of a lime and the two tablespoons of neutral oil. Bash the stalks of lemongrass with the back of your knife to release all the essential oils. Roughly chop and add to the bag. Massage the seasonings into the pork. Place into the refrigerator to marinate, at least one hour.
To prepare the noodles, place them into a large bowl and pour enough boiling water over them so that they are covered and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain them and immediately toss with enough dressing to coat. Add the julienned vegetables to the noodles and toss to combine, adding a bit more dressing. Park in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to quick chill the salad.
While the salad is chilling, place the sliced shallots in a small saucepan and pour in enough oil just to cover them, should be about 1/4 cup. Turn the heat to medium and watch over the shallots as the pan gets hot and they begin to fry. When they are deeply brown, remove them to a paper towel lined plate and season with salt.
Pour two tablespoons of the oil that you fried the shallots in into a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When nice and hot, remove the pork from the marinade and cook in the shallot flavored oil until golden brown and crispy. Remove to the paper towel lined plate.
To assemble the salad, pile up some of the noodles and vegetables into a shallow bowl. Top with some of the lemongrass pork, shallots and peanuts. Pour on a little more dressing and garnish with basil and cilantro leaves to be torn in.
This recipe makes lots of leftovers so you will have a cold and refreshing Vietnamese style salad in your fridge all week for your enjoyment. The southeast Asian countries really get it right when it comes to food with their perfect blending of sweet, savory, salty, funky, bright and fresh. It’s like having Saigon Kitchen in your kitchen and with all the goodness of farm fresh veggies and herbs!