Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vietnamese Noodle Salad

Sweet, tangy, spicy, funky, salty, delicious.  
Walking the dogs the other night, I happened across my new favorite book store--the Book Mall on South Broadway. The owner gave Tato and Swaysway dog treats and had an encyclopedic knowledge of everything written, ever. So many used book stores are full of faded Joyce Carrol Oates and The ButterBusters Cookbook and other worthless crap. But the Book Mall is totally different--on every shelf, there is something you've been meaning to read.
And the cookbook section was phenomenal. There were half a dozen I really wanted, but I settled on The Gourmet cookbook: 

This cookbook contains the top 1000 or so recipes from the whole history of Gourmet magazine. The recipes come with the back stories about the context of American cooking in which they first appeared. It's super entertaining to read page by page, like a novel, and there are so many things I am dying to make. 
After reading it once through the first time, the recipe that stuck in my mind was the Lemongrass Beef and Noodle Salad. 

This recipe originally appeared in Gourmet in 1995, when people first started using formerly obscure Asian ingredients in mainstream cooking. 

This was the first time I've used Vietnamese fish sauce--I've used Thai fish sauce for years, but not Vietnamese. And it is DELICIOUS. The nuac cham dressing TO DIE FOR.
My new magic ingredient. 
I mean, you could sprinkle chopped basil and cilantro and mint and crushed peanuts on anything and it would be fabulous. But this salad is just wonderful. 
They didn't have beef at the Asian market, so I used pork. But would probably have been better with beef, so I included the original recipe. 
The lemongrass marinade is also fantastic. It would be perfect on any grilled meat--beef or chicken or pork or fish. 

This recipe would be great without meat, too. 
I served this for Bachelor Night, where it was an unmitigated hit. 

I also made some stir-fried shitakes with eggplant to go with it. 

This is delicious. Make it immediately!

Serves 4 as an entrée


For marinade
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and root end trimmed
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (preferably nuoc mam)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

  • a 1- to-1 1/4 pound skirt steak or flank steak
  • 1/2 pound dried rice-stick noodles (rice vermicelli)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (preferably Thai basil), washed well and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, washed well and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, washed well and spun dry
  • about 1 cup Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese lime sauce) (see below)
  • a 1-pound seedless (European) cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 to 4 small thin fresh red or green Asian chilies (1 to 2 inches long) or serrano chilies, seeded and sliced very thin (wear rubber gloves)

  • Garnish: Thai basil, mint, or coriander sprigs


Make marinade:
Thinly slice lower 6 inches of lemongrass stalks, discarding remainder of stalks. In a food processor or blender finely grind together sliced lemongrass and garlic. Add remaining marinade ingredients and blend well.
In a large resealable plastic bag combine marinade and steak and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate steak, chilled, turning bag once or twice, at least 4 hours or overnight.
In a large bowl soak noodles in hot water to cover 15 minutes, or until softened and pliable.
Prepare grill (or preheat broiler). Bring a kettle of salted water to a boil for noodles.
Discard marinade and grill steak on an oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals 3 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. (Alternatively, steak may be broiled on rack of a broiler pan about 3 inches from heat about same amount of time.) Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes.
While steak is cooking, drain noodles in a colander and cook in boiling water 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until just tender. In a colander drain noodles and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain noodles well.
In a large bowl toss noodles with herbs and half of nuoc cham. Divide cucumber among 4 bowls or plates and top with noodles. Sprinkle each serving with 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons rice powder. Thinly slice steak on the diagonal and divide among noodles, mounding it. Sprinkle chilies over each serving and garnish with herb sprigs. Serve remaining nuoc cham on the side.

Nuac Cham Dressing
This recipe is used to prepared Grilled Lemongrass Beef and Noodle Salad.
Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.


  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (preferably nuoc mam)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 garlic clove, forced through a garlic press
  • 2 small thin fresh red or green Asian chilies (1 to 2 inches long) or serrano chilies, seeded and chopped fine (wear rubber gloves)


In a small bowl stir together all ingredients until sugar is dissolved.

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